Its a wonderful time to be gay! That is unless you need a job, housing, government protections, freedom from bullying, or consistent Civil Rights. As the battle for Marriage Equality gained steam, lesser issues such as employment discrimination took a massive hit and LGBT leadership has been slow to react. Federally, the United States does not protect sexual orientation minorities from workplace discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In 1964 Congress passed Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241). The provisions of this civil rights act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. The word “sex” was added at the last moment. According to the West Encyclopedia of American Law, Representative Howard W. Smith (D-VA) added the word. His critics argued that Smith, a conservative Southern opponent of federal civil rights, did so to kill the entire bill. Smith, however, argued that he had amended the bill in keeping with his support of Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party with whom he had been working. Martha W. Griffiths (D-MI) led the effort to keep the word “sex” in the bill. In the final legislation, Section 703 (a) made it unlawful for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges or employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The final bill also allowed sex to be a consideration when sex is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job. Title VII of the act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to implement the law.
While State laws vary widely, twenty-two states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity by statute. But, in 28 states, you can get fired just for being gay and in 30 states, you can be fired for being transgender. This means that in more than half of the country you have no State or Federal workplace protections regarding your sexual orientation. But more than that, you can be fired just for the mere fact of being homosexual, not be hired or even bullied or harassed without legal protections because you are a gay male.
So, what is one of the greatest and most obvious ways these facts effect you? In 2014, more than one in four LGBT adults (2.2 million people) struggled to put food on the table! Workplace discrimination is not a concept, belief or idea. It effects our very ability to survive in this world. Everything cost money and a job is how the vast majority of us are able to afford the basics to luxuries of daily living. And marriage equality complicates the issue; you can be married on Sunday afternoon, post the pictures on Facebook Sunday night, and get fired for being gay on Monday morning.
The above is just about the problems of getting and maintaining a job, now let’s look at what happens once you have employment but are not protected from office and workplace discrimination and bullying.
- One in four LGBT employees report experiencing employment discrimination in the last five years.
- Nearly one in 10 LGBT employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.
One of the surest ways that It Get’s Better, regarding High school, is to graduate. But life is not that easy, you cannot just leave every job but some of our brothers are living a total nightmare just to put food on the table or pay back those massive student loans. Workplace bullying, unfortunately is very similar to school events and can be just as severe and even physical.
- 35% of LGBT employees feel they must lie about their personal lives at work.
- And a fifth of these employees say they are exhausted from having to hide their identities, while a third felt distracted from their job duties due to negative work environments.
- Fifteen percent to 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job.
- Eight percent to 17 percent of gay and transgender workers report being passed over for a job or fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Ten percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were gay or transgender.
- Seven percent to 41 percent of gay and transgender workers were verbally or physically abused or had their workplace vandalized.
- 62% of LGBT individuals hear anti-LGBT slurs and jokes in the workplace.
- 43% of LGBT workers have experienced workplace discrimination.
- 14% of LGBT Americans make less than $10,000 annually.
- While 5.9% of the general U.S. population makes less than $10,000 per year, 14% of LGBT individuals are within this low-income bracket.
- And only 4% speak up to a supervisor about the harassing language they hear at work. The majority of both LGBT and non-LGBT workers simply decide to ignore the offensive remarks rather than reporting the negative behavior.
According to the Williams Institute, these employees experienced termination, were denied promotions or were harassed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
If all of this sounds bad, remember that anti-gay bias, harassment and discrimination can happen at anyplace of employment. Large corporations are not the only offenders. We have seen these issues arise everywhere from governmental agencies to LGBT non-profits, even when the company and/or state have workplace anti-discrimination polices and protections.
If you don’t remember Junior High School Civics class, Federal law, usually trumps State laws, this is how marriage equality from the Federal level was able to overturn laws against it on the State level. But, this can work against us as well. Currently, the state of New York, which does have state and city level protections for sexual orientation minorities is having the law tested in Federal Court regarding the EEOC as reported by Fortune Magazine:
The Trump administration’s Department of Justice undercut the stance of the Obama administration’s DOJ and another autonomous federal agency, by arguing that an existing law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, does not bar an employer from firing a gay employee because he or she is gay.
The filing came the same day as President Trump’s announcement that he would bar transgender troops from serving in the military. Together, the two actions fueled outrage from lawmakers, activists and other leaders who argue that the administration is seeking to roll back the rights and protections won by the LGBT community in recent years.
Sexual orientation is not explicitly listed in Title VII, which protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color, as well as national origin, sex, and religion. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in July 2015 that discrimination based on sexual orientation is, in essence, discrimination based on sex. Because sexual orientation can’t be defined or understood without reference to sex, the commission held, discrimination based on it is “premised on sex-based preferences, assumptions, expectations, stereotypes, or norms” and therefore barred by the law. The EEOC’s ruling was hailed as a victory for the LGBT community at the time, and under President Obama, it became the interpretation that the DOJ abided by.
The DOJ’s new stance on the matter says that determining such workplace protections should be done through Congress, not through the courts. Lawmakers have pursued that route before. The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (and, in more recent versions, gender identity) nationwide, was first introduced in 1994. Congress considered it at least 10 times in the following decade and a half, but it never became law. The current Congress, whose GOP leadership includes many social conservatives, seems highly unlikely to act on a similar bill.