Talking about diversity challenges can take us so far back in time. The United States has endured hard moments and has lived through crucial changes in society starting from the way we see and treat each other.
Those challenges of the past are only a prelude for the challenges of today. With a workforce as diverse as never before, companies have been pushed to take a closer look at integration and affirmative action policies and, as Professor Steven E. Campbell from Cornell University states, “take a proactive role in ensuring a diverse workforce through their recruiting and hiring practices, promoting from within, and a commitment toward minority employee retention.”
During recent years, legislators have introduced new acts which impact HR and diversity practices in the US. One of these is the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, signed into law on May 21, 2008. This legislation is “designed to protect that class of people who may be genetically predisposed to developing a specific disease in the future.” This act bars employers from using an employee’s or applicant’s genetic information when deciding their employability.
The late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy was quoted as saying this legislation was the “first major new civil rights bill of the new century.”
But there are other not so successful stories of proposed legislations such as the bill pending in Congress for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This piece of legislation was proposed to prohibit discrimination against employees or applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, non-religious employers with at least 15 employees. Religious organizations have a special exception from ENDA, similar to the principles of the Civil Rights Act. Non-profit membership-only clubs, except labor unions, are also provided with the exception.
This act is yet to be passed, with many groups urging Congress to take action and ensure workplace equality by protecting vulnerable groups such as LGBT workers, from employment discrimination.
ENDA has been proposed in every Congress since 1994 (except in the 109th Congress from 2005 to 2007). Still, it hasn’t passed through. And last time it was reviewed, it passed the House and died in the Senate.