New Report Reveals 'Broken Bargain' for Trans Workers

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com September 06 2013 2:30 PM ET

A new report reveals startling inequities for transgender people in the American workforce.

The study, titled “A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers,” was coauthored by the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Discrimination in the hiring of transgender workers is widespread, and only 17 states and the District of Columbia have employment nondiscrimination laws that protect this demographic, according to the study. Currently, there are no federal protections for workers against discrimination based on gender expression or identity, despite the fact that 77% of voters would support such a law.

The lack of legal protection has resulted in a number of problems, including employment and income inequalities as well as the unequal access to health insurance benefits. Transgender workers are twice as likely to be unemployed than cisgender workers, and those who are employed report significantly lower salaries. Fifteen percent of transgender adults make less than $10,000 per year.

In addition, the report reveals rampant discrimination against transgender people in the workplace. Nearly 80% of workers reported discrimination or maltreatment in the form of verbal abuse or ridicule. One in 14 claimed they were the victims of physical violence in this environment.

In order to address these inequalities, “A Broken Bargain” recommends systemic change on the federal, state, and local level that would provide protections to transgender people in the workplace and access to affordable health insurance benefits, including coverage for gender transition procedures. It also advises employers to adjust their policies to address the needs of their transgender workers, which may include medical leave.

“While some protections for these workers exist based on the federal prohibition against sex-based discrimination, for many transgender people in the United States the workplace remains a minefield of harassment, discrimination, unjust firing, and unequal pay, and benefits,” the report concludes. “This hurts transgender workers and their families, while also undermining the ability of employers to build the cohesive, positive and innovative work environments that spur success in today’s economy.”

“Fixing the broken bargain for transgender workers will help ensure that they are treated fairly no matter where they work, that they receive the same compensation for the same work, and that they can access important benefits available to other workers to protect their health and livelihood. It is time to send transgender workers the message that they matter, and to show that our nation and our economy are stronger when we treat all workers fairly.”