A staggering number of LGBT employees experience discrimination in the workplace. Yet, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (federal legislation that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation) remains on the back-burner not only for politicians, but also LGBT rights activists.
The LGBT rights activists have certainly had their hands full with the passage of same-sex marriage laws all over the country, both allowing and not allowing the union. Also getting headlines this year is the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” legislation.
The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act was originally introduced in 1993 by the Clinton administration. It was aimed at protecting closeted homosexual and bisexual members of the armed forces, while at the same time prohibiting the same members from openly serving in the military. The act was repealed in 2010 by the Obama administration.
The repeal of DADT was a significant advancement of the employment rights of LGBT persons, but unfortunately, only those persons who seek employment with the military. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would protect all LGBT identifiers in the workplace from discrimination based on their sexual identity.
A study by the Center for Work Life Policy indicates that 48 percent of self-identified LGBT college-educated professionals remain closeted in the workplace. One of the researchers for the study revealed the individuals remaining closeted feared consequences to their career if they revealed their sexual identity or gender identity.
Another study by the Williams Institute, a research center on sexual orientation and gender identity at University of California, Los Angeles, reported that a quarter of lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees experienced job discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation in the past year. Transgendered individuals reported at a harrowing 78 percent experiencing job discrimination or harassment.
The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a substantial step toward eliminating employment discrimination for LGBT identifying individuals. However, serious advocacy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the best way to ensure the end of employment discrimination of individuals for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Source: Huffington Post, “Who Cares About LGBT Workers?,” Darren Hutchinson, July 31, 2011