While many states and employers are enforcing LGBT-inclusive policies, progress is “at bestsporadic and uneven” – and therefore a national anti-discriminationworkplace law specifically addressing sexual orientation and genderidentity must be enacted, according the U.S. Commission on CivilRights’ report, “Workingfor Inclusion: Time for Congress to Enact Federal Legislationto Address Workplace Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,and Transgender Americans.”

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“As these policies are enacted separately and independently, thelack of national legal protections leaves many to hide who they arefor fear of discrimination -- including termination -- in theworkplace,” the authors write.

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The commission reviewed testimony, as well as social scienceresearch and surveys, and found that LGBT workers are stillinsufficiently protected from workplace discrimination, due in partto an “inconsistent and irreconcilable” patchwork of state laws against anti-LGBT workplacediscrimination and federal court decisions interpreting existinglaw.

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Twenty-eight states do not have state law protectionsprohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation,and 30 states do not have state law protections for beingtransgender or gender-nonconforming, according to the report. Thecommission also found that federal data sources do not effectivelycapture rates of LGBT employment or rates of LGBT employmentdiscrimination.

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“Today, it’s possible for a lesbian couple to get legallymarried on Saturday and then be fired on Monday for putting awedding picture on their desk,” say proponents of federallegislation, according to the report.

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“In many states, a person can be fired simply for being lesbian,gay, bisexual or transgender,” the proponents add. “As a result,millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing thatwithout any warning they could lose their jobs not because of theirwork performance but simply because of who they are or who theylove.”

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The commission makes the following key recommendations:

  • In order to effectively and consistently protect LGBT employeesfrom workplace discrimination, Congress should immediately enact afederal law explicitly banning discrimination in the workplacebased on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • In addition to Congressional action, federal agencies includingthe Departments of Justice and Labor, the Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission, and the Office of Personnel Managementshould issue and—where relevant—reaffirm specific guidance forfederal and private employers outlining protections for LGBTindividuals in the workforce, including specifically enumeratingprotections for transgender persons.

  • Workplace discrimination data should be collected through theinclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity questions inpopulation-based surveys of the workforce such as the Census,American Community Survey, and surveys fielded by the Bureau ofLabor Statistics and other agencies.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.