Congress To Review New Employment Discrimination Laws

When Congress returns from its April recess, several significant employment and labor-related issues will be addressed. These include legislation prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, fair pay and paid sick leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Under current law, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of any protected category. This means that any private employers, state and local government, employment agencies, labor organizations or federal government who employs more than 15 employees cannot discriminate against you regarding almost any employment matter – including hiring, firing and discipline.

Senate bill 1584 and H.R. 3017, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, seeks to extend the protections already in place for race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability to “gender identity.”

The Legislation defines “gender identity” as “gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designation at birth.”

Other legislation being considered includes the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182, H.R. 12) which seeks to amend the Equal Pay Act to create greater consequences for sex discrimination regarding wages. These include non-retaliation requirements, as well as increasing penalties and providing for compensatory and punitive damages where violations occur.

Also, H.R. 3047 – The Balancing Act of 2009 – amending the Family Medical Leave Act, is expected to be reviewed. Currently, the FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually from their jobs under certain circumstances. This amendment would expand the types of employees covered to include some part-time employees, same-sex spouses, and telecommuters. Further, the amendments would allow for up to 7 days of paid sick as well as “parental involvement” leave.

These amendments all seek to ensure fairness and improve working conditions for employees in Georgia and throughout the United States. As Georgia employment lawyers are concerned about justice in the workplace, we will be following the proposed legislation and how each bill will affect employment rights. If you or a family member has questions about employment discrimination or the Family Medical Leave Act, please contact us for more information.