US Senators Soon To Vote On Dead-End Anti-Discrimination Law

In just a few hours the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the employment non-discrimination act that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation would create a new class of employees with protected status.

The act, known as ENDA, is not likely to pass the Republican-controlled House or become law.But there's growing support for anti-discrimination legislation, even among conservatives.

Ruth Ann Daniels is an employment and labor law attorney with Looper Reed & McGraw. She says Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, but not sexual orientation.

"You know, if I am gay or lesbian and my employer finds out about it and feels strongly that they somehow are prejudiced against that and don't want it in the workplace, literally they could terminate me based upon that reason and I would not have any protections."

Daniels predicts at some point in the next decade, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will have protected employment status. But from her perspective as an employment attorney, it may become more difficult for companies to terminate employees.

"People claim all the time I was terminated because of my minority status, or I was terminated because I was a woman and I was treated differently than men. It's going to give employees another reason to argue about why their termination was wrongful."

That's a viewpoint also held by House Speaker John Boehner, who is opposed to ENDA and says the legislation would lead to frivolous litigation.

Meanwhile, the act has support from 60 U.S. senators, including five Republicans. That's enough votes to bypass a filibuster and pass the bill.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...