Workplace Discrimination Series: Sam Hall

Congress must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to end unfair and discriminatory workplace practices that hurt LGBT workers and their families.

Part of a Series

Discrimination has no place in our society, and the workplace is no exception.

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, workers, it is harder to find and keep a good job; this is rooted in discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Since there are no federal workplace protections for LGBT workers, many experience countless hardships and barriers.

In the United States it is assumed if an individual works diligently he or she will be assessed on employment qualifications—not on factors unrelated to job performance. LGBT workers, however, often experience the opposite. As with other workers, LGBT workers deserve a job with a safe and supportive environment where a person’s abilities to succeed will be evaluated rather than a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Currently, 9 out of 10 Americans incorrectly believe that LGBT workers are already protected under state and federal law despite Congress first denying LGBT workplace protections in 1974 and continuing to do so now. Momentum seems to be shifting, however, toward workplace protections for LGBT workers; bipartisan support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, was evident during markup of the bill on July 10 by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Now, more than ever, this increase in momentum must continue.

LGBT workers continue to experience a hostile work environment even when they are employed

The moment an LGBT worker receives an offer of employment, he or she anticipates whether colleagues will be welcoming or not. Yet many encounter anti-gay slurs, jokes, and verbal and/or physical harassment. Moreover, it is not uncommon for LGBT workers to be denied promotions or even risk being fired simply for being LGBT.

Check back each Tuesday to hear more stories from LGBT workers about their experiences with workplace discrimination. Contact us at [email protected] to share your own story.

According to a new comprehensive report that examines the myriad hardships facing LGBT workers:

  • Fifty-eight percent of LGBT employees have heard jokes or derogatory comments about LGBT people at work. The workers who heard such comments also reported being more depressed and distracted because of their colleagues’ remarks.
  • In a meta-analysis of more than 50 studies, between 7 percent and 41 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers report being verbally and physically harassed at their workplace.

This problem is exacerbated for LGBT employees of color who often experience “double discrimination.” This problem illustrates the critical need for legislation such as ENDA to work in conjunction with existing federal race-based employment protections.

In the second part of our “Workplace Discrimination Series,” listen carefully as a gay worker recounts the discrimination he faced at work and the action he took as a result.

The story of Sam Hall

Sam Hall worked for a mining company in West Virginia for seven years. Although Sam only wanted to provide the best possible life for his family, he ended up spending most days crying on his way to and from work. Management told Sam he had no rights that protected him from verbal and physical harassment. This is Sam’s story about how workplace discrimination changed his life.



Workplace discrimination is a real problem that hurts real people. Congress should take the necessary steps to ensure that LGBT workers have comprehensive protections from discrimination by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. LGBT workers must have a chance to exhibit their qualifications in order to build a successful life for themselves and their families.

Preston Mitchum is a Policy Analyst with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.

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Preston Mitchum

Policy Analyst

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