AFL-CIO to work to pass employment non-discrimination act

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The AFL-CIO vowed on Sept. 11 to work for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act: Protecting America's Workers, saying momentum is on their side to win freedom from discrimination for all workers.

Only 17 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and four states have laws barring employment discrimination based only on sexual orientation. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace, the AFT said in the resolution adopted by the AFL-CIO. Studies show one in five LGBT workers report discrimination on the job.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all 50 states, creating express protections for LGBT people in the workplace.

"The fear of being discriminated against based on sexual orientation deters people from stepping up to serve our communities and reach for the stars," AFT President Randi Weingarten says. "We need to recommit ourselves to knocking down barriers for working people and stand up for equal treatment under our laws."

Thirteen states have passed full marriage equality laws, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and nearly 80 percent of Americans support LGBT workplace protections, Weingarten says. "We have momentum on our side for ENDA to become the law of the land."

A bi-partisan group of legislators introduced the most recent version of ENDA in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

As it has done with civil rights, equal pay, and disability rights legislation, the AFL-CIO said it will and should lead the way for LGBT protections on the job.

"Without ENDA, the only protection many LGBT workers have is their union contracts. Union workers can be fired only with just cause and often have access to grievance procedures and arbitration," the AFL-CIO resolution says. "The AFL-CIO will redouble our support for the passage of ENDA and continue this work until every worker—gay or straight, transgender or not—is treated with dignity and respect on the job."

Read the resolution.

September 11, 2013