What’s Next after Marriage Equality? The US Civil Rights Commission Urges Congress to Pass LGBT Protections

Washington, D.C.—Last week, the United States Commission on Civil Rights (the “Commission”) released a report urging Congress to pass a federal law that specifically bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition to their urgent plea to Congress, the Commission—a bi-partisan and independent government agency—issued explicit guidance to federal agencies on how to better support and protect their LGBT employees, in their report, Working for Inclusion: Time for Congress to Enact Federal Legislation to Address Workplace Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans.
The report, which references Out & Equal’s work and its founder, Selisse Berry, is the Commission’s first briefing solely dedicated to the civil rights of LGBT individuals and argues the importance of adopting LGBT workplace protections on a federal level. In their findings, the Commission highlights several key facts regarding the state of LGBT workplace protection:

  • LGBT employees are not adequately protected from workplace protection by existing laws as the majority of LGBT individuals live in states that have not adopted workplace protections
  • Because federal data sources do not include questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, they do not adequately capture the true rate of LGBT employment discrimination
  • LGBT employees face significant barriers to employment and a severe degree of employment discrimination that negatively impacts their quality of life
  • A considerable amount of research illustrates that this discrimination comes from employers on all levels—local, state, federal, and private.

As a result of these findings, the Commission’s report has five recommendations for Congressional action:

  • “Immediately enact a federal law” with specific protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace
  • Appropriate adequate funds to enforce civil rights laws; Adjust and amend religious exemption in any LGBT non-discrimination law to align with and be the same as exemptions in existing civil rights law;
  • Population-based surveys (such as the Census and American Community survey) should include questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in order to capture holistic workplace discrimination data;
  • Federal agencies should issue guidance regarding LGBT workplace protections and include specific enumerations for transgender individuals

To read the full report, click here.

N.B. The Commission is made up of eight appointed officials serving six-year terms. Four are appointed by the President and four by Congress. The current Chair was appointed by President Obama and no Trump Administration appointees currently serve on the Commission. Additionally, there is not unanimous consent among the Commissioners on the recommendations in the report. Two of the Commissioners, both of whom were appointed by Congress, disagree with conclusions and one does not believe the Commission has jurisdiction over issues related to LGBT employment protections.


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