Senate passes Employment Non-Discrimination Act, bill heads to the House

A monumental bill that passed the Senate last November is set to reconvene in the U.S. House of Representatives this upcoming year.

The bill is called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013. A similar bill was attempted almost 20 years ago but failed by one vote.

Details of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013

Specifically, the bill prohibits employers from engaging in workplace discrimination on the basis on a person's "actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." An employer is defined under the law as one who has 15 or more employees or is classified as an employment agency or labor organization.

The law will make it unlawful for an employer to fire, hire, classify, or segregate employees based on their sexual orientation or gender preference.

The law will also prohibit employer discrimination against such employees regarding pay or other "privileges of employment," like bonus or benefits.

Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against or taking discriminatory action against employees who oppose the unlawful conduct. The law also bars employers from taking negative action against employees who make a claim, testify or assist in an employment law violation investigation.

Although the new law applies to almost all types of employees, religious institutions and the military will be exempt from the conditions.

Chances of success

According to supporters, this new federal law will be the "final step" in stopping discriminatory action against all individuals in the workplace.

It remains to be seen whether there will be enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass the bill and make it a real law. There hasn't been a bill similar to the ENDA introduced in Congress in over 20 years.

Many employee advocates are confident that some version of the ENDA will eventually pass both chambers and be signed into law because, they argue, cultural views are simply different today than they were two decades ago.

For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA as well as states' advancements on pro-gay marriages have changed America forever. Further, many businesses, including several Fortune 500 companies, have voluntarily implemented employment policies that prohibit discrimination against gay, bisexual or transgendered individuals in the workplace.

"One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do," President Obama indicated in a recent statement.

The House is set to reconvene this month.