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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.


LGBT Workers

NOTE: To download the full report A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers, scroll below or click on the link in the title above. Click here for the news release.

U.S. workers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) number an estimated 5.4 million. Yet LGBT workers continue to face inequality, unfairness, harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and they often have nowhere to turn for help.

LGBT employees who work just as hard as their non-LGBT counterparts face multiple barriers to fair and equal treatment—barriers that make it harder for LGBT workers to find and keep good jobs; and barriers that prevent LGBT workers from accessing the same job-related benefits as their non-LGBT coworkers, putting LGBT workers and their families at risk.

No federal law provides explicit legal protections for LGBT workers, and fewer than half of states have laws that protect workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. But most Americans are not aware of the lack of protections for LGBT workers. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Americans (87%) mistakenly believe that it is already illegal under federal law to fire someone simply for being gay.

Additionally, when an LGBT worker does the same job as a non-LGBT coworker, a series of federal and state laws deny the LGBT worker equal access to worker and family benefits—as well as family tax relief. This can create an untenable situation for LGBT workers and their families--as well as for employers. Even when a company’s leaders believe that fair and equal treatment in the workplace is fundamental to their values and business success, the law often forces employers to treat LGBT workers differently.

These and other injustices negatively impact both workers and employers. Action is needed by federal, state and local governments (as well as by employers) to reduce and eliminate inequities for LGBT workers and their families—solutions that would benefit the entire American workforce.

Related Resources


LGBT Employees & Title VII

December 2017 - Several courts are considering cases brought by LGBT employees who have been discriminated against at work because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. This two page infographic offers an explanation of why Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is so important for LGBT employees and reviews the legal landscape.


Non-Discrimination Laws: Employment

August 2016 - Employment non-discrimination laws protect LGBT people from being unfairly fired, not hired, or discriminated against in the workplace by private employers.


LGBT Policy Spotlight: Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People

January 2016 - LGBT Policy Spotlight: Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People examines federal, state, and local laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, the perfect tool to educate everyone from elected officials to classmates to family and friends about the important need for basic protections.


LGBT Policy Spotlight: Local Employment Nondiscrimination Ordinances

October 2015 - LGBT Policy Spotlight: Local Employment Nondiscrimination Ordinances examines city and county nondiscrimination ordinances (NDOs) that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in private employment. The report details where these ordinances are geographically, their growth over time, and the gaps in coverage that remain.


Snapshot: Transgender in America

July 2015 - This new infographic, “Snapshot: Transgender in America,” gives a quick look at state-level laws and policies that impact the lives of transgender people and provides some key statistics on the challenges transgender people face.


Issue Briefs: Protecting LGBT Workers

June 2014 - New state-focused issue briefs provide overviews of the unfair treatment faced by hardworking LGBT Americans who continue to lack essential protections against discrimination—and as a result, can still be unfairly fired from their jobs simply because of who they are.


A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers

May 2014 - LGBT Americans continue to face unfair treatment, harassment and discrimination in the workplace, yet no federal law provides them with explicit legal protections. Learn how businesses and policymakers can help level the playing field and protect LGBT workers from employment discrimination.


A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color

November 2013 - LGBT workers of color face unique challenges, including educational barriers; hiring bias and on-the-job discrimination; unequal pay, benefits, and taxation--and extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and poverty as a result. Learn about actions that can help fix this broken bargain for LGBT workers of color.


An Impossible Choice: LGBT Workers & Family Leave Laws

November 2013 - Learn how discriminatory laws and unequal access to family and medical leave laws force lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers to choose between managing medical or family crises and holding onto their jobs and their livelihoods.


A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers

September 2013 - The basic American bargain--that those who work hard and meet their responsibilities should be able to get ahead--is broken for transgender workers. Learn about the inequities facing transgender workers, and how policymakers and employers can help reduce and eliminate those inequities.


A Broken Bargain: Infographics

June 2013 - From the pages of A Broken Bargain come a set of infographics, including: 'The Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers,' 'Legal Discrimination Makes It Harder to Find and Keep a Good Job,' 'Transgender Workers Work As Hard, Denied Health Care and Leave,' and more.


A Broken Bargain:

June 2013 - 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. Learn more in the 132-page Full Report, the 36-page Condensed Version, and the five-page Executive Summary


Issue Brief: The Need for an Executive Order

April 2013 - U.S. taxpayers send almost $300 billion per year in federal contract dollars to businesses in states that have not yet passed laws to protect LGBT workers from discrimination. An executive order would protect an additional 16 million workers and cover more than 20% of the U.S. workforce.

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