Friday, September 27, 2013

Improving Prospects for Federal Law Protecting Against Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Discrimination

For decades, legislation has been unsuccessfully introduced in Congress to include sexual orientation/gender identity as protected categories under Title VII.  As the law currently stands, an employee has no cause of action against an employer for adverse employment actions based on the employee being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (“LGBT”).  However, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of the Defense of Marriage act, and changing societal attitudes, that could be about to change.

According to political observers and employment law experts, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”) has very good prospects of being enacted within the next year. ENDA would put in place put a nationwide ban on workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

According to an article published by Ben James in Employment360, the evolving attitude of the American public on LGBT issues “has created a critical mass to make this the best time and the best opportunity for ENDA to pass.

ENDA’s improved prospects for passage comes after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) release late last year of its Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP”) for 2013-2016.  In the SEP, the EEOC made it clear, that despite sexual orientation not being a protected class under Title VII or any other federal law, it intended to bring cases against employers for LGBT discrimination by construing such instances as “sexual stereotyping” under Title VII’s general prohibition against gender discrimination.

Mark Fijman is a labor and employment attorney with Phelps Dunbar, LLP, which has offices in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina and London. To view his firm bio, click here. He can be reached at (601) 360-9716 and by e-mail at fijmanm@phelps.com.