Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Co-Sponsoring Legislation to End Workplace Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Aug 6, 2009

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced they are
co-sponsoring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a piece of
legislation that would finally prohibit job discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity.  ENDA extends federal employment discrimination protections currently
provided based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability to
sexual orientation and gender identity. Senators Schumer and
Gillibrand were joined by 36 of their Senate colleagues fighting for this
cause. Senators Merkley (D-OR), Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME), and Kennedy
(D-MA) are lead sponsors of the legislation.

a nation founded on the notion that all people are created equal, the bottom
line is that all Americans must be free from the specter of workplace
discrimination. This legislation will do just that,” Schumer said. “For far too
long, Americans have been fired or denied jobs simply because of who they are.
But with this legislation, all Americans can rest assured that they are
protected from discrimination at the workplace. I have long supported
employment nondiscrimination legislation and will continue to fight to ensure
that all Americans are treated fairly.”

“It is long past
time that our nation does what is right and outlaw employee discrimination in
the workplace,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Every New Yorker and every American
deserves the opportunity to earn a fair wage and succeed in the workplace. This
commonsense legislation will bring our hiring practices into the 21st century and help ensure fairness and equality for every New Yorker.”

Qualified, hardworking Americans are denied
job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against just because they
are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).  There is no federal law
that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination; it
remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation,
and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.  As a
result, LGBT people face serious discrimination in employment, including being
fired, being denied a promotion and experiencing harassment on the job.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would
provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation or gender identity.  ENDA simply affords to all
Americans basic employment protection from discrimination based on irrational
prejudice.  The bill is closely modeled on existing civil rights laws,
including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with
Disabilities Act.  The bill explicitly prohibits preferential treatment
and quotas and does not permit disparate impact suits.  In addition, it
exempts small businesses, religious organizations and the military, and does
not require that domestic partner benefits be provided to the same-sex partners
of employees.

ENDA extends federal employment discrimination protections currently
provided based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability to
sexual orientation and gender identity. It also prohibits public and private
employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using an individual’s
sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions,
such as hiring, firing, promotion or compensation. The Act provides for the
same procedures, and similar, but somewhat more limited, remedies as are
permitted under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Twenty-one states and the District of
Columbia have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual
orientation, and 12 states and D.C. also prohibit discrimination based on
gender identity.  While these laws provide important protections,
according to a 2002 General Accounting Office (GAO) report, relatively few
complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation have been filed in
these states.

Hundreds of companies have enacted policies
protecting their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.  As of
February 2009, 423 (85%) of the Fortune 500 companies had implemented
non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 176 (more than
one-third) had policies that include gender identity.

Other original co-sponsors of ENDA include Assistant Majority
Leader Richard Durbin, Senators Daniel Akaka (HI), Jeff Bingaman (NM), Barbara
Boxer (CA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Roland Burris (IL), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ben
Cardin (MD), Bob Casey (PA), Chris Dodd (CT), Russ Feingold (WI), Diane
Feinstein (CA), Al Franken (MN), Tom Harkin (IA), Daniel Inouye (HI), John
Kerry (MA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Patrick Leahy (VT), Carl
Levin (MI), Joe Lieberman (CT), Robert Menendez (NJ), Barbara Mikulski (MD),
Patty Murray (WA), Jack Reed (RI), Bernie Sanders (VT), Jeanne Shaheen (NH),
Arlen Specter (PA), Mark Udall (CO), Tom Udall (NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI),
Ron Wyden (OR), Jeff Merkley (OR), Susan Collins (ME),  Olympia Snowe
(ME), and Edward M. Kennedy (MA).

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been endorsed by
national civil rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the ACLU, labor organizations and more
than 50 Fortune 500 companies.

Schumer was an original co-sponsor of the last Senate ENDA in 2003 that
narrowly escaped passage.