Imagine being let go from your employer, not for poor performance or lack of ability, but because you are LGBT. Blatant acts of discrimination are allowed under law in many states. In fact, in many states it's still legal to fire someone because they are lesbian, gay or trans.
Are there any protections for LGBT workers?
Several states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but many others do not (see the list below). As yet, there is no federal law that protects LGBT from workplace discrimination. ENDA, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, is a pending federal law that disallows employers with at least 15 employees to discriminate in hiring and employment practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes firing, refusal to hire or refusal to promote LGBT employees.
The path to gaining equal protections under ENDA has not been a simple one. The bill has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 (except the 109th) without success. Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) reintroduced the bill to the House of Representatives in 2011. Frank's bill extended the bill to include trans people who were removed in previous versions. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore) also introduced the bill in the Senate in November 2013 here it passed with bi-partisan support.
Why Isn't ENDA Law Yet?
Despite growing support, the bill has yet to pass the House. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not allow the House to vote on ENDA. He claims erroneously that "People are already protected in the workplace" and fits into a false belief held by many that LGBT people are already safe from being fired.
Is There Anything Being Done?
Yes. Pres. Obama has promised to sign an executive order that would prevent workplace discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender contractors. White House officials told Huffington Post in an interview that the mandate "builds upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractor from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Today, millions of Americans in most states in the country go to work every day knowing they could lose their jobs simply because of who they are or who they love. No current federal law adequately protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers from employment discrimination. That’s why the President has long supported federal legislation to explicitly prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."
The order will complicate existing state laws that allow LGBT to be fired in the private sector and will set the stage for nationwide protections.
Which states protect LGBT people against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity?
* prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity
**prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public employment only
***prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public employment only
****prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public employment only
- District of Columbia*
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey*
- New Mexico*
- New York***
- Ohio**** (gender identity protections expired in 2011)
- Rhode Island*