HRC Study Reveals Ongoing Discrimination Against LGBT Workers

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com June 04 2013 12:57 PM ET

A coalition of nonprofit organizations has released a comprehensive report detailing ongoing discrimination against LGBT American employees.

Titled “A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers,” the study was helmed by the Center for American Progress, the Movement Advancement Project, and the Human Rights Campaign, which termed it “the most comprehensive report to date about issues faced by LGBT workers.”

The report has determined that among the estimated 5.4 million LGBT workers in 93% of U.S. counties, nearly 2 million leave their positions each year due to workplace discrimination. In addition, these workers are far more likely to be poor. An estimated 21% of LGBT couples have incomes close to the poverty line, compared to 6% of straight couples.

The study also draws attention to the absence of federal protections for LGBT workers and their families, which can still be denied benefits related to health, retirement, and disability in the United States. Under federal law, these employees can still be fired for their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition, “A Broken Bargain” examines the emotional impact of workplace harassment and discrimination, which has led one third to one half of gay and lesbian employees to be closeted about their sexual orientation.

“Even if same-sex couples could marry in all 50 states tomorrow, it would still be perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay under federal law and in a majority of states. In other words, workers would be able to marry the person they love, but if they put that wedding picture on their desk, they might lose their job,” Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president of external affairs at the Center for American Progress, said in a press release announcing the study. “While we are seeing recent victories on the marriage equality front, we must do more to address the real and serious problem of employment discrimination against LGBT workers.”

In response to the results of the study, the coalition is urging leaders in business and politics to reexamine discriminatory policies and to find “common-sense solutions,” which would not only provide equal protections for LGBT workers and their families but also increase profits.

“America’s most successful businesses want a level playing field for workers across the country,” said Chad Griffin, president of HRC. “In addition to treating their own LGBT employees with dignity and respect, over 90 major businesses have also joined the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness. Treating everyone fairly through federal law is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for companies’ bottom line.”