Individual and Community Effects of LGBT Employment Discrimination

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Employment protections can help curb discrimination and encourage individuals to disclose what might otherwise be stigmatizing characteristics.

Across many European countries, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. In the US, however, LGBT individuals do not have federal employment protections. At the state level, in 2017, only 21 states had laws protected individuals from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Recently, Christy Mallory, of UCLA’s Williams Institute, and her colleagues examined the prevalence of discrimination in Texas—one of the many in the nation that does not have anti-LGBT discrimination laws on the books.

More than one in four transgender individuals reported being fired, not promoted, or terminated in the previous year because of their gender identity and expression. Thirteen percent had faced harassment at work.

Their experiences are not lost on the public, where 79 percent of Texas residents believe LGBT individuals face discrimination.

The prevalence of discrimination and mistreatment—at work, in searching for housing, and in other contexts—results in serious psychological and physical harm. Beyond the increase in suicide rates, the health effects hurt the economy. The authors estimated that reducing the health disparities could save the state over $600 million annually in healthcare costs.

Together, Mallory and colleagues’ study show the very real harm that comes from not having employment protections for people who are LGBT. The lack of such laws makes the mistreatment of people permissible. It is possible to institute such mandates, though, and doing so can help curb mistreatment and discrimination, and ultimately yield economic dividends.