The culture of the workplace has changed dramatically over time, becoming safer and more inclusive for LGBT employees with each passing year. Where it was once unheard of for someone to be out at work, now 49% of LGBT employees are out at the workplace (HRC, 2009) and 21 states have laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees. Additionally, 282 state and local governments have passed ordinances that protect public employees from discrimination based upon sexual orientation (HRC, 2008). Together, these pieces of legislation have contributed to helping 61% of out LGBT employees feel satisfied at work (HRC, 2008).
All of this is good news for many LGBT employees, but unfortunately it doesn’t apply to the entire LGBT community. Of the 21 states that prohibit LGBT discrimination, a full 6 do not include gender identity in those protections, and 29 states have no LGBT protections whatsoever (MAP, 2011). What that means is that companies and public employers in 36 states (the states with no LGBT employee protections plus the 6 that only include sexual orientation) can still discriminate based upon gender identity. Leaving out an entire section of the community is alarming, and has profound impacts on the transgender members of the workforce. One in four transgender employees report having been fired at some point due to their gender identity (NCTE/NGLTF, 2011) and 50% were harassed at work (NTDS, 2009). These numbers are significantly higher than discrimination rates based only upon sexual orientation, and reflect the dearth of protections available to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
Partial equality is no equality.
Efforts towards ensuring workplace equality have come a long way in the last few years, but steps must be taken to ensure that gender identity, in addition to sexual orientation, is part of every company policy, ordinance, and law. That way, employment can be free from discrimination for everyone in the LGBT community, not just a select few.