LGBT WORKERS LIVE AND WORK UNDER ‘A BROKEN BARGAIN’

New Report Examines How LGBT Workers Face Discrimination, Get Fewer Benefits and Pay More Taxes

June 4, 2013 | Washington, D.C. — A landmark new report released today examines how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers might have the same job as a coworker, yet be legally fired, denied equal benefits and be required to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers illustrates how America’s basic bargain—that those who work hard can get ahead—is broken for LGBT workers. The report vividly shows how antiquated and discriminatory laws make it harder for LGBT workers to provide for themselves and their families, and offers detailed policy recommendations for addressing those inequities.

While the nation focuses on recent advances in securing marriage for same-sex couples, 40 years of advocacy have yet to yield federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers. Driven by the need to respond to this need, this report brings together a coalition of leading LGBT organizations, policy experts and business advocates that includes the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress (CAP), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in partnership with Freedom to Work, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Partnership for Women and Families, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates and SEIU—with a foreword by Small Business Majority.

“The ethical and business case for Workplace Equality has transformed corporate America. The companies we work with are leading the way and now is the time for our legislators to do the right thing for business, the right thing for social justice, the right thing for equality and follow suit. An inclusive ENDA when passed will be the prelude to our greatest work and greatest challenge – creating cultures of inclusion that permeate all our workplaces,” said Selisse Berry, Founder and CEO, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

Full and condensed versions of the report are available online at www.lgbtmap.org/lgbt-workers.

LGBT WORKERS ARE DIVERSE, OFTEN PARENTS AND MORE LIKELY TO BE POOR

A Broken Bargain paints the most complete portrait to date of the LGBT workforce in the U.S., revealing that:

  • There are an estimated 5.4 million LGBT workers who live in 93% of all U.S. counties.
  • LGBT workers are often parents. More than one-third (37%) of LGBT adults have had a child, making family benefits important to LGBT and non-LGBT workers alike.
  • LGBT people are at higher risk of poverty than non-LGBT people. Fifteen percent of transgender people have a household income under $10,000, compared to 4% of the population as a whole. Same-sex couples raising children are more than twice as likely to have household incomes near the poverty line compared to opposite-sex parents (21% vs. 9%).
  • LGBT workers are slightly more racially/ethnically diverse than the U.S. population as a whole.

HOW IS THE BASIC AMERICAN BARGAIN BROKEN FOR LGBT WORKERS?

“For LGBT workers, hard work is often rewarded by bias, fewer workplace benefits, and higher taxes,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of MAP. “Imagine doing the same job as your coworker, but being told that your child, unlike your coworkers’, is excluded from the company’s health insurance plan. Imagine making the same mandatory contributions to Social Security, only to know that your family, unlike your coworkers’, will be denied benefits should something happen to you. Then, on top of it all, imagine being hit with a much higher tax bill.”

Among the ways that Americans’ basic bargain is broken for LGBT workers:

  • Lack of nondiscrimination protections. No federal law and only a minority of states provide explicit protections for LGBT workers, even though protections exist for other workers based on factors such as race, national origin, religion, ethnicity, and disability. Progress has perhaps been impeded by the fact that 89% of Americans mistakenly believe that it is already illegal under federal law to fire someone simply for being LGBT.
  • Family and medical leave. LGBT workers are denied equal access to unpaid leave to provide care for a same-sex spouse or partner. Transgender workers are often denied medical leave for transition-related medical care.
  • Family health benefits. An employer that extends family health benefits to married opposite-sex couples can legally deny that same coverage to married and unmarried same-sex couples. When LGBT workers do receive these benefits, middle-income families pay an estimated $3,200 in extra taxes on them, although heterosexual workers get the same benefits tax-free.
  • Spousal retirement benefits. LGBT workers are systematically denied Social Security spousal benefits designed to protect workers' families during their retirement years. This costs retired same-sex couples up to $14,484 per year, and a surviving same-sex widow or widower up to $28,968 per year. Same-sex partners also may also be denied pension survivor benefits.
  • Death and disability benefits. If an LGBT worker dies or becomes disabled, the worker's same-sex spouse—and in some cases, his or her children—will be denied Social Security disability and survivor benefits, costing a surviving spouse with two children as much as $29,520 in annual benefits.

“Even if same-sex couples could marry in all 50 states tomorrow, it would still be perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay under federal law and in a majority of states. In other words, workers would be able to marry the person they love, but if they put that wedding picture on their desk, they might lose their job,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “While we are seeing recent victories on the marriage equality front, we must do more to address the real and serious problem of employment discrimination against LGBT workers."

BUSINESSES AGREE THAT THE BROKEN BARGAIN NEEDS FIXING

“Workforce diversity has always been a pillar of Dell's competitive advantage. It promotes an environment that values individual differences, engages people in decision-making, and helps us embrace larger talent pools to continue building the innovative workforce of today and tomorrow. Our anti-discrimination policies help Dell recruit and retain talented, innovative workers and executives to our company and, once recruited, help keep them here,” said Laura Crumley, Executive Director of Finance, Dell Inc.

“Small business owners know that nothing creates success like hard work, and they want policies in place that help them find and retain the most talented, hard working employees this country has to offer,” said Small Business Majority Vice President of External Affairs Rhett Buttle. “But current law often forces them to treat some employees differently than others, and that only hurts them, their workers and the overall success of our economy. It is no surprise that our national April 2013 survey found that 67% of small businesses support extending federal workplace protections to gay and transgender employees.”

COMMON-SENSE SOLUTIONS FOR FIXING THE BROKEN BARGAIN

To restore the broken bargain, policymakers and business leaders must institute a series of commonsense and popular solutions to treat all workers and their families fairly and equally. Among the broad policy recommendations detailed in the report: the importance of addressing inadequate federal and state nondiscrimination protections, extending legal recognition for the partners and children of LGBT workers, and changing benefit, immigration and tax law to ensure equal treatment for LGBT workers and their families. The report also contains detailed recommendations such as extending equal access to federal programs like Social Security, equal access to health care and insurance, ending inequitable taxation of domestic partner benefits, expansion of FMLA and other laws that allow same-sex couples take care of each other, and ensuring LGBT families are eligible for family-based tax relief.

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CO-AUTHORS

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” www.americanprogress.org

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. www.hrc.org

Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. www.lgbtmap.org

FOREWORD AUTHOR
Small Business Majority is an advocacy group founded and run by small business owners to focus on solving the biggest problems facing small businesses today. We actively engage small business owners and policymakers in support of solutions that promote small business growth and drive a strong economy. We advocate for policies that create jobs and maximize business opportunities and cost savings in healthcare reform, clean energy, access to capital and other areas. www.smallbusinessmajority.org

OUT & EQUAL WORKPLACE ADVOCATES
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is committed to ending employment discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. We believe that people should be judged by the work they do, not by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Every day, we work to protect and empower employees to be productive and successful—so they can support themselves, their families, and contribute to achieving a world free of discrimination for everyone. Out & Equal recently published Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office, a groundbreaking anthology which chronicles personal narratives from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied executive trailblazers who have conquered adversity and ushered in policies that affirm and support the LGBT community in the workplace. Learn more at www.outandequal.org.

PARTNERS
Freedom to Work: www.freedomtowork.org
National Center for Transgender Equality: www.transequality.org
National Partnership for Women & Families: www.nationalpartnership.org
Service Employees International Union (SEIU): www.seiu.org