Surveying LGBTQ Worker Discrimination

What States That Don’t Protect LGBTQ Workers From Discrimination Have in Common

Southern states are least likely to have statutory protections from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Studies indicate that discrimination against LGBTQ employees, up to and including loss of employment, is prevalent in the U.S.

Are you fully protected from employment discrimination?

For employees who identify as LGBTQ, and work in one of at least 17 states nationwide that fail to protect workers, the answer at best is uncertain. At worst, it’s “no” under state statute.

One of my areas of research is employment discrimination. In an article to be published this fall, I examined the characteristics of states which have adopted legislation protecting LGBTQ employees from discrimination.

In many ways, the patchwork pattern of state-level protection from discrimination for LGBTQ employees is similar to states which allowed same-gender marriage before 2015.

Discrimination Costs

Because federal law does not specifically protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination, some argue that it is legal to harass and even fire an employee just for “coming out” on the job.

In fact, on Aug. 16, the Trump administration filed a written brief with the Supreme Court arguing that federal law does not protect transgender employees from discrimination. The Supreme Court will decided by 2020 whether sexual orientation and gender identity are covered under federal employment discrimination law.

Early studies indicate that discrimination against LGBTQ employees, up to and including loss of employment, is prevalent in the U.S.

In a 2007 study of literature by the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, 16% to 68% of those identifying as lesbian, gay and bisexual, and 15% to 57% of those identifying as transgender, reported experiences of employment discrimination.

The associated loss of workplace productivity due to discrimination against LGBTQ employees is estimated at US$229.3 billion annually, due to absenteeism, turnover and costs related to stress.

Other Important Characteristics

I also found that the size of the urban population in a state predicted its likelihood to adopt protections for LGBTQ workers from discrimination.

When the urban population of a state increased by 1%, the state was nearly 10% more likely to adopt legislation protecting LGBTQ employees.

Another interesting study result was based on a nationwide index of religiosity, taken from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Higher rates of religious practice by a state’s residents, like those of Alabama and South Carolina, was the only variable that I studied which decreased the likelihood of a state to adopt legislation that protected LGBTQ employees from discrimination. This finding echoes other research of pro-LGBTQ legislation.

I am currently surveying members of the LGBTQ community to better understand the employment and related experiences of this community nationwide.