Now that same-sex marriage has been made legal across the country, it is time for the next battle to begin. As the fight for equality for women, minorities, the disabled and many other protected classes of people continues, members of the LGBT community are ready to join the ranks. Employment equality for LGBT employees might be the next battleground.
Is Equality in Employment Really an Issue?
According to one report, nearly 52 percent of the LGBT community lives in a state that has no prohibition against firing an employee based on their sexual orientation. What this means is, you may exercise your Constitutional right to marry one day and then get fired for doing so the next. This is still a reality.
LGBT Discrimination Mirrors Other Protected Groups
Employment discrimination against LGBT employees is not limited to termination, though. There is also discrimination in the failure to hire or promote LGBT employees, workplace harassment, and unequal pay. This is the same type of employment discrimination that other minority groups have been enduring in the workplace for decades.
Alabama Has No Laws in Place to Protect LGBT Employees
Despite the existence of LGBT bias in the workplace, there are only 19 states that have laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Three additional states protect against sexual orientation discrimination, but not gender identity. In 18 states, LGBT employees still have no employment protections at all. Alabama is one of those states.
What About Federal Protection Against LGBT Workplace Discrimination?
The lack of protection on the federal level is even worse. In fact, there is no federal statute in place that protects employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit such discrimination, has been continuously introduced in Congress since 1994. Yet, there has never been sufficient Republican support to get it passed.
What Kind of Protection Would ENDA Provide?
If passed and signed into law, the proposed ENDA would be similar to Title VII, prohibiting employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations from discriminating against workers and potential employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It would protect both public and private employers, with 15 or more employees. ENDA would make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an individual "because of such individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."
The Likelihood of ENDA Becoming Law
At this point, the likelihood that Congress will pass this proposed law seems pretty slim. Aside from the fact that it hasn't passed in the more than two decades it has been introduced, the Speaker of the House stated last year that there was "no way" the bill would pass. According to Speaker John Boehner, the bill was "unnecessary" because "people are already protected in the workplace." The battle continues.
Workplace discrimination is a reality for many people in Alabama and throughout the nation. If you believe you have been the victim of workplace discrimination in Birmingham, get in touch with an employment law attorney as soon as possible. Contact Wrady Michel & Kingtoday by filling out a form for an initial case review or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.