Recent Center for American Progress polling shows that 73 percent of voters support protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment. Despite this strong public support, no federal law provides explicit legal protections for transgender workers based on gender identity/expression–and only 17 states and the District of Columbia offer these protections. As a result, transgender workers face higher rates of unemployment and are at greater risk of poverty.
In a new report released in September, A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers http://lgbtmap.org/a-broken-bargain-for-transgender-workers-release shows:
Transgender workers report unemployment at twice the rate of the population as a whole (14 percent vs. 7 percent at the time the workers were surveyed).
More than four in 10 transgender people (44 percent) who are currently working are underemployed.
Transgender workers are nearly four times more likely than the population as a whole to have a household income of under $10,000 (15 percent vs. 4 percent at the time the workers were surveyed).
Among the burdens and inequities faced by transgender workers:
Pervasive Misunderstanding, Hiring Bias and On-The-Job Discrimination. Many Americans have very little understanding of what it means to be transgender. As a result, for transgender people seeking work, the entire job search and hiring process is full of challenges, particularly if a legal name or gender on an identity document (e.g., a driver’s license) does not match the outward appearance of the applicant. Once a transgender employee is hired, he or she may face many forms of harassment and discrimination, including denial of promotions or unfair firing.
Wage Inequities In addition to job discrimination, transgender employees face wage disparities that make it harder for them to provide for themselves and their families.
Lack of Explicit Legal Protections. Transgender workers facing discrimination may seek recourse by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC will work to mediate a settlement on the worker’s behalf and has done so successfully. However, EEOC rulings are not binding on private employers, furthering the need for explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender workers under federal law.
Inability to Update Identity Documents. Intrusive and burdensome requirements can still make it difficult or impossible for many transgender people to obtain accurate and consistent identification documents.
Unequal Access to Health Insurance Benefits. Exclusions in health insurance often deny transgender workers access to both basic healthcare and transition-related care.
Denial of Personal Medical Leave. Employers may deny transgender workers leave for necessary transition-related care, incorrectly stating that such care does not constitute a “serious medical condition.” As a result, transgender employees may face a difficult choice: Put their jobs at risk to care for themselves, or make do without the necessary healthcare and put their health in jeopardy.
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
The Movement Advancement Project http://lgbtmap.org is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The National Center for Transgender Equality http://transequality.org/ is a social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.
Freedom to Work
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates