Current federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination Act of 1979, protect employees from discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, national origin, sex, religion, disability, pregnancy and age. Congress is considering adding new protected employment classes through the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2009 that would expand federal employment protection to individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The current version of ENDA (H.R. 3017/S. 1584) would prohibit employment discrimination against employees and job-seekers due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. H.R. 3685 would exempt religiously-affiliated businesses, schools and other organizations from coverage.
In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a previous version of ENDA that is similar to twenty state laws that protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination only. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 (H.R. 3685) passed the House by a vote of 235 - 184 on November 7, 2007. The bill stalled in the Senate.
SHRM supported the 2007 version of ENDA, but has concerns about the ambiguity of establishing a gender identity protected class. The 2009 legislation defines the term gender identity as the “gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth.”