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Anti-Gay Workplace Discrimination Prevalent, Protections Growing

In 2013, it’s unfortunate – and sometimes maddening – that we must continue to face down issues of workplace discrimination.
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But while litigation for many protected classes often serve to make the rules clear-cut, it’s not as much the case for those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. That’s because the federal protections for those who who identify as LGBT are limited, and only a handful of states have strong protections for these workers.

This leaves many of the estimated 5.4 million LGBT workers at risk for an inability to provide for themselves and their families.

New York fares better than most states, but we still have far to go.

A 2012 ruling by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission extends Title VII prohibitions on sex discrimination to include those who are transgender and gender non-conforming.

In New York, employment discrimination law covers only sexual orientation, according to the Movement Advancement Project. The same non-profit research firm reports that about 50 to 59 percent of the state population is protected from employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity through local ordinance. Only 16 states have 100 percent, statewide gender identity protection.

Some 20 states protect workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. MAP recently compiled a report indicating that on the whole, LGBT workers face more discrimination, receive fewer benefits and pay more taxes than their straight counterparts.

What this means is that in more than half of the states in the U.S., one can still be fired simply for being gay or transgendered. For example, one man featured recently in The New York Times was laid off after working nearly 10 years as an adjunct professor of communications at a small community college in Missouri – simply and expressly because his boss disliked his sexuality.

A federal bill called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would bar on-the-job discrimination against anyone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Similar measures have failed to gain steam numerous times since the 1990s. However, both houses of Congress have their own version of the legislation now and the measure seems to have gained substantial support. Committee discussion is expected early next month.

The primary forms of LGBT discrimination, as outlined by MAP’s research, are:

  • Bias and discrimination in hiring;
  • On-the-job unfairness and inequality;
  • Wage penalties and gaps;
  • Lack of legal protections;
  • Unequal access to health insurance benefits;
  • Denial of Family and Medical Leave Act;
  • Denial of spousal retirement benefits;
  • Higher tax burdens.

But even with laws to address these aspects of unfairness, some believe that it has to start from within the agency. If discrimination is part of the culture of an organization, it’s going to be pervasive no matter what laws are enacted.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides employment litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.

Additional Resources:
Fired for Being Gay? Protections Are Piecemeal, May 31, 2013, By Tara Siegel Bernard, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
New York Gender Discrimination Happens to Men Too, March 20, 2013, Great Neck Discrimination Lawyer Blog