Center for American Progress

RELEASE: LGBT Workers Continue to Face Unfair Discrimination
Press Release

RELEASE: LGBT Workers Continue to Face Unfair Discrimination

Washington, D.C. — Today, as Exxon Mobil’s shareholders are expected to vote again to deny workplace protections to its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, employees, and the city of Houston, Texas, votes on whether to extend such protections to LGBT workers, a newly released report paints a sobering portrait of the widespread discrimination LGBT people face in the workplace. “A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers” documents how LGBT workers continue to face unfair treatment, harassment, and discrimination, yet no federal law provides them with explicit legal protections.

“An executive order by President Barack Obama would force Exxon Mobil to adopt LGBT workplace protections in order to continue profiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts,” said Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work. “Exxon’s leadership has rejected these common-sense nondiscrimination policies year after year, even though their competitors at Chevron and BP understand that banning discrimination is good for business. It’s time for presidential leadership to move Exxon to accept the American value that everybody deserves a fair shot in the workplace.”

“A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers” is available online at

LGBT workers face discrimination that makes it harder for them to find and keep good jobs, earn a living, and provide for both themselves and their families. This discrimination includes:

  • Bias and discrimination in recruitment and hiring. LGBT workers can put their job prospects at risk if they disclose that they are LGBT while looking for work.
  • On-the-job inequality and unfair firing. An LGBT employee may be in a workplace that is blatantly hostile, one that condones anti-gay or anti-transgender jokes and slurs, and/or one where employers look the other way and allow a discriminatory climate to flourish. A 2011 survey found that 58 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers and 78 percent of transgender workers had heard derogatory remarks or jokes at work. A different survey found that 26 percent of transgender workers were unfairly fired because they were transgender, and 47 percent said they had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion.
  • Wage gaps and penalties. In addition to job and workplace discrimination, LGBT employees face wage disparities that make it harder for them to provide for themselves and their families. Polls show that individuals who self-identify as LGBT are more likely to report incomes of less than $24,000 per year and are less likely to report incomes of more than $90,000 per year, compared to their non-LGBT peers.

“Right now, 18 states plus Washington, D.C., ban discrimination against LGBT people, linking arms with roughly 9 out of 10 of America’s largest employers that have found that fair and equal treatment also makes for good business,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “We must redouble our efforts to ensure that no American can lose their job simply because of who they are or whom they love.”

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that LGBT workers should be treated fairly. According to a 2014 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, 72 percent of Americans support workplace nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers. Yet the same poll revealed that 75 percent also erroneously believe such protections already exist under federal law. Amid overwhelming public support, policymakers and business leaders can take a number of important steps to protect LGBT workers, including:

  • Signing an executive order. A federal executive order would prohibit companies that contract with the federal government from discriminating in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Enacting nondiscrimination laws and policies. Federal, state, and local governments should pass nondiscrimination laws or ordinances that include explicit protections for LGBT workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. For example, the City of Houston’s vote to protect LGBT workers would have significant impact, given that the city is the largest in Texas and the fourth-largest in the nation.
  • Fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces. Government and private employers should put in place policies and procedures that foster welcoming and inclusive workplaces and encourage diversity. Eighty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have policies protecting lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers, and 57 percent also protect transgender workers.

“Fewer than half of states have laws protecting workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, or MAP. “The states without employment protections are home to more than half of the nation’s LGBT population, including many who experience extreme discrimination and high rates of poverty. Policymakers from the municipal to federal level must address the critical need for employment protections.”

A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers” is co-authored by MAP; the Center for American Progress; Freedom to Work; and the Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.




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.”

Freedom to Work is a national organization committed to banning workplace harassment and career discrimination against LGBT Americans through public education, policy analysis, and legal work.

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.

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.


The National Center for Transgender Equality is a social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration, and empowerment.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is committed to creating safe and equitable workplace environments 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.

To speak with an expert on this topic, please contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.