A bill making its way through the United States Senate could offer new workplace protections for gay, lesbian and transgendered people in North Carolina. Senators voted 61-30 on Tuesday to allow debate to begin on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act,or ENDA, setting the stage for a full vote on the bill.
If passed, ENDA would ban employers from discriminating against gays, lesbians and transgendered Americans in hiring, firing and promotions. It's the same protections already afforded to groups like women and minorities. Currently, North Carolina and dozens of other states have no protections for LGBT workers.
"It is pretty straight forward," Don Davis, an employment attorney with The Noble Law Firm said. "All it does is amend an existing law that protects people from employment discrimination."
But opponents like Tami Fitzgerald with the NC Values Coalition say the bill is actually unfair to employers.
"This is a free country and business people should be free to operate their businesses according to their own consciouses," Fitzgerald said. "We believe it is going to increase frivolous litigation and that it's going to cost Americans jobs, especially small businesses."
That claim is not supported by a recent report from the federal Government Accountability Office. A report from July looked at similar nondiscrimination acts in 22 states and found that between 2007 and 2013, there were "relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
Read the full report here.
Raleigh woman claims she was fired for being gay
Back in 2012, a Raleigh woman, Veda Renfrow, claimed she was terminated from her job because of her sexual orientation. She was fired from her job as a broadcast technician, in charge of recording Wake County Commissioners meetings. While her employer denied her firing had anything to do with her sexual orientation, if ENDA were in effect, Renfrow may have been able to file a federal complaint.
"it's basic fairness," Davis said, "allowing people who work hard to be able to work without fear of being fired because of who they are or who they love."
ENDA is expected to pass the democratic-controlled Senate, but faces an uphill battle in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan supports ENDA. Republican Senator Richard Burr does not.