Center for American Progress

RELEASE: LGBT Workers of Color Are Among the Most Disadvantaged in the American Workforce
Press Release

RELEASE: LGBT Workers of Color Are Among the Most Disadvantaged in the American Workforce

Washington, D.C. — According to a new report released today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, workers of color are among the most disadvantaged workers in America. Due to discrimination coupled with a lack of workplace protections, unequal job benefits and taxation, and unsafe, under-resourced U.S. schools, LGBT people of color face extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and poverty.

“A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color,” a companion to the recently released report, “A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits, and More Taxes for LGBT Workers,” is co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, or MAP; the Center for American Progress, or CAP, and its FIRE Initiative; Freedom to Work; the Human Rights Campaign, or HRC; and the National Black Justice Coalition, or NBJC; in partnership with Color of Change; the Leadership Conference Education Fund; League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF; the National Action Network; the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, or NQAPIA; Out and Equal Workplace Advocates; and SEIU.

“Contrary to popular stereotypes, LGBT workers are more racially diverse than the general population, making it critical to address the unique obstacles they face,” said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. “Bias and prejudice based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression intersect to the detriment of LGBT workers of color.”


“Systemic barriers and inequities in the educational system make it harder for LGBT people of color to meet workforce qualifications,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “LGBT workers of color are also unfairly denied or lack access to job-related benefits that other workers take for granted, making it harder for these workers to earn a living and provide for their families.

“A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color” examines how LGBT workers of color face unique challenges related to their race and ethnicity and their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in three areas:

  • Educational barriers: LGBT youth of color are among the children who are most at risk of dropping through the cracks of the U.S. educational system. The reasons include: unsafe and under-resourced schools; a lack of support for LGBT students; and a “school-to-prison” pipeline that results in significant numbers of LGBT students of color entering the juvenile justice and correctional systems.
  • Hiring bias and on-the-job discrimination: Barriers such as unwarranted background checks, inadequate or nonexistent nondiscrimination protection for LGBT workers, and the lack of mentorships and on-the-job support make it difficult for many LGBT workers of color to find good and steady jobs that provide them with the economic security they need to support themselves and their families.
  • Unequal pay, benefits, and taxation: LGBT workers of color receive unequal pay and unfair access to job-related benefits, leaving them with less to care for themselves and their families—even if they are doing the same jobs and working just as hard as other workers.

“While there are laws in place to help protect workers from discrimination based on race and ethnicity, it is still legal to fire or refuse to hire someone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation in the majority of states,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at CAP. “Addressing this gap in federal law is one more step forward in the march for equality and justice for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”


“Fixing the broken bargain for LGBT workers of color will help ensure that they are treated fairly no matter where they work, that they receive the same compensation for the same work, and that they can access important benefits available to other workers to protect their health and livelihood,” said Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work.

“A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color” offers detailed recommendations for action to fix the broken bargain for LGBT workers of color by the federal, state, and local governments, as well as colleges, universities, and employers. Recommendations include:

  • Eliminate or reduce educational barriers for LGBT youth of color by passing the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act, or SSIA, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, or SNDA, in an effort to reduce discrimination and bullying in schools.
  • Eliminate or reduce bias and discrimination against LGBT workers of color by passing federal legislation to ban employment discrimination nationwide on the basis of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation.
  • Secure equal pay and benefits for LGBT workers of color by increasing federal and state protections against wage discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and increasing access to good jobs with good benefits for LGBT workers of color.

“America has passed numerous laws and policies based on an understanding that protecting the interests of workers and their families is good for the economy and good for the country. It is time for those protections to extend to LGBT workers of color,” said Jeff Krehely, vice president and chief foundation officer at the Human Rights Campaign.


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. CAP’s FIRE Initiative works to eliminate the social, economic, and health disparities faced by LGBT people of color.

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.

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 Black Justice Coalition, or NBJC, is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black LGBT people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia. As America’s leading national black LGBT civil rights organization focused on federal public policy, NBJC has accepted the charge to lead conversations in the black community to strengthen the bonds and bridge the gaps between the movements for racial justice and LGBT equality.