The Last Frontier: LGBT Protection in the Workplace
By Lauren Bayne Anderson
June is LGBT Pride Month (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender). And while 21 states currently have legislation in place to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace—that means the majority of states still do not offer legal protection. In short, there’s still a lot of work to do.
In several studies conducted by the Center for American Progress studies show between 15 and 43 percent of gay people have experienced some form of discrimination or harassment on the job. And an amazing 90 percent of transgender people have reported the same, with half also reporting either being fired, passed over for a job, or being denied a promotion.
But the most recent poll from the Center for American Progress shows the tide may be changing with regards to the public’s support for workplace discrimination protection for gay and transgender people.
According to the poll, conducted in April, 73 percent of likely 2012 voters support LGBT protection from workplace discrimination. And what’s better, the support was high among all party lines, with 81 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans supporting legal protection.
In fact, Catholics, senior citizens, and even those who openly admit to “feeling generally unfavorable toward gay people” largely supported legal protection.
But there’s a lot of misinformation. The poll found that 9 out of 10 voters believe there is already federal legislation in place that protects LGBT people in the workplace. In reality, there is only a federal legislation in place that prohibits discrimination toward LGBT in the federal workforce—not in the private sector. This legislation, Executive Order 13087, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a proposed bill in the U.S. Congress that would offer legal protection to LGBT people in the workplace—prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, non-religious employers with at least 15 employees.
But the bill has been introduced in every Congress, except the 109th, since 1994, and has yet to pass.
Most recently, it was reintroduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley on April 14, 2011 (S. 811). Despite the wide approval from the public, the bill had only 39 original cosponsors this time around, as compared to 203 cosponsors at the conclusion of the 111th Congress, in 2009.
So, what can you do if you want to show support for LGBT protection in the workplace?
- Call your elected officials in the U.S. House and Senate. Common Cause will help you find out who your representatives are by searching your state, zip code or address.
- The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force offers information on showing support, in addition to organized phone calls to Congress and other campaigns you can participate in.
- Check out GLAAD- The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for updates, information on local meetings and more.
Information compiled from The Center for American Progress, Wikipedia, and NPR.