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With ENDA stalled lawmakers seek executive action against discrimination

California has been a longtime leader in extending basic rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Along with 20 other states, California has policies and laws prohibiting sexual-orientation discrimination. Sexual harassment is a serious matter in any workplace, no matter who is being targeted or what the sexual identity of the victim.

However, even in 2014, there is no national legal framework in place that prohibits LGBT discrimination in the workplace. With Congressional efforts stalled, many lawmakers are pressuring President Obama to take a firm stance on the issue by signing an executive order.

Executive order could not prohibit all discrimination, but may help millions of workers

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, has been introduced in Congress in one form or another a number of times over the past decade. ENDA, if passed, would prohibit employers across the nation with 15 or more employees from discriminating against LGBT workers on the basis of sexual orientation. Yet, despite continual efforts over many years and relatively strong showings of support, ENDA has failed to make it through Congress.

Last November, ENDA passed in the U.S. Senate on a vote of 64-32. This vote included support from ten Republican senators. However, Speaker of the House John Boehner has indicated that he will not bring ENDA to a vote in the House of Representatives in 2014, even though six Republican members of the House are cosponsors of the bill. With midterm elections coming up and a Republican-controlled House, ENDA as national legislation seems an unlikely prospect this year.

However, in March of 2014, 149 members of the House and 48 senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to sign an executive order that would extend the protections of ENDA to workers employed by companies that do business with the federal government. As opposed to legislative action that would reach every employer with enough workers, an executive order could only prohibit federal contractors from engaging in LGBT discrimination.

Even though the scope of an executive order would be limited, according to a recent report from the Williams Institute of the University of California of Los Angeles, an executive order could provide gender orientation discrimination protection for as many as 16 million workers who do not currently have it.

Harassed or discriminated against? Call a California employment law attorney

The status of national politics aside, even without federal action, California workers have legal remedies in place under state law to address workplace sexual harassment based on gender identity, sexual orientation or anything else. If you are facing an uncomfortable or hostile environment at work or have been subjected to some negative employment action like termination or demotion due to your sexual orientation or gender, it is important to take legal action.

Doing nothing about discrimination or harassment will not only cause you to lose out on the remedies to which you are entitled, it will encourage your employer to continue to engage in illegal and wrongful conduct. Contact a California employment law attorney to learn more about the remedies that may be available.

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