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Federal anti-discrimination laws could help all workers

Federal and state laws protect an assortment of people from different forms of discrimination and harassment at work. Employer mistreatment due to religious beliefs, age, sex, race or disability is a violation of those statutes. However, there are many employees who are still not protected against discrimination in the workplace based on their gender identity and sexual orientation.

In California and only 15 other states, employers cannot harass or discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Some lawmakers and many workers in the U.S. would like these employment laws to become consistent and expand. But passing a federal ban to eliminate workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has yet to happen.

Recently, the Senate did hold a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a proposal that would outlaw workplace bias for gender identity and sexual orientation.

Under the reworked proposal -- known as ENDA -- gays, lesbians and transgender employees would enjoy the same legal protections as other workers. More than half of the U.S. population does not live in communities with anti-discrimination legislation for sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some lawmakers have been concerned that the addition of gender identity to the proposed federal law could stifle the bill's passage, but many believe that it is important to include gender identity in the bill since many transgender workers report experiencing discrimination in the workplace.

In 2008, a study concluded that work discrimination was rampant against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender employees. A random sample found that 42 percent of bisexual, lesbian and gay employees had faced some form of discrimination in the workplace. Almost 80 percent of transgender workers had been mistreated on the job, according to the study.

Although transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual workers in California are protected by anti-discrimination laws, the passing of ENDA could certainly help to ensure these protections for workers in California and the entire U.S.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Preventing bias on the job," June 17, 2012