New Democracy Maps

A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers

The Bottom Line

The basic American bargain is that those who work hard and meet their responsibilities should have the opportunity to get ahead. It is founded on the principle that workers will be judged based solely on their performance and qualifications—no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they are from. This basic bargain is not just an idea—it is embedded in laws that promote equal access to jobs and protect workers from discrimination. But these laws do not protect everyone.

A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers paints a sobering portrait of widespread discrimination faced by LGBT people in the workplace and documents how LGBT workers continue to face unfair treatment, harassment, and discrimination. Yet they often have nowhere to turn for help. No federal law provides explicit legal protections for LGBT workers, and fewer than half of states have laws that protect workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Offering the most current data, A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers details the discrimination faced by LGBT workers, offers solutions for fair treatment at work, and outlines policy recommendations to level the playing field for LGBT workers.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress, Freedom to Work, and Human Rights Campaign. May 2014. A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers. (date of access).

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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