Employment discrimination law is an interesting point of intersection between state and federal authority. While many states have expanded the law within their own borders, it has been some time since the federal government has significantly expanded the scope of its employment discrimination jurisdiction. However, a new piece of legislation that recently passed a major test in the U.S. Senate could bring about the largest expansion in federal employment law since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
On November 7, 2013, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate by a vote of 64 to 32. This bill would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status and expand the jurisdiction of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to include charges of discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment based on sexual orientation.
This bill is not law yet and must still pass through a much less supportive House of Representatives. Should the bill become law, though, it could have some effect on California businesses. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, the passage of this bill could still have the following effects in California:
The EEOC, rather than the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, would usually investigate most charges based on sexual orientation.
Employers could face sexual orientation discrimination lawsuits in federal court.
Employees alleging workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation would gain access to the remedies provided under federal law.
The fate of ENDA remains uncertain, but if the bill ultimately becomes law, our California employment law attorneys are ready to advise our business clients as to how it affects them.