Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, attended a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2011 (ENDA). Senator Murray is an original cosponsor of the bill. ENDA would prohibit employers from using an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions, extending protections to LGBT workers similar to protections provided to persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.
"It is time to put a stop to this kind of discrimination once and for all -- it's simply unacceptable," Senator Murray said at the hearing. "That's why I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this important legislation. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act will demand employers evaluate the performance of an employee on the basis of their work, not their sexual orientation."
Studies of LGBT employees reveal significant levels of discrimination in the workplace. According to a 2007 report, nearly 30 percent of LGBT workers reported discrimination in the workplace. A 2011 report also found that 47 percent of transgender Americans experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.
During the hearing, Murray questioned Ken Charles, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills, and Kylar Broadus, founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition and the first openly transgender person to testify before the Senate. The Senator asked Charles and Broadus to discuss their experiences as an executive and an employee, respectively, and to elaborate on the importance of workplace inclusivity and its potential impact on business.
The full text of Senator Murray's remarks, as prepared:
"Thank you Chairman Harkin. And I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today to discuss this important issue.
"All Americans deserve to feel secure in their workplace. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity simply cannot be tolerated.
"Currently, 16 states, including my home state of Washington, have enacted statutes that prohibit such discrimination, and another five states bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation alone.
"I am proud to say that in 2006, the Washington state legislature enacted a bill called the Washington Law Against Discrimination. This law added protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the state civil rights law, and was a giant step forward for the civil rights of Washington workers.
"While state laws such as these provide important protections and should be commended, employers in a majority of states can still fire, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"Sadly, this discrimination is happening in workplaces across the country, and we have heard some of these stories from our panel today.
"It is time to put a stop to this kind of discrimination once and for all -- it's simply unacceptable.
"That's why I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this important legislation.
"The Employment Non-Discrimination Act will demand employers evaluate the performance of an employee on the basis of their work, not their sexual orientation.
"This legislation has bipartisan support, and there is no reason it cannot be passed quickly through this committee. We need to work together to strengthen protections for our workers, and to ensure an environment of equality at workplaces across America.