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LGBT Workers Continue to Face Unfair Discrimination

As Exxon Mobil, Houston, and Congress Debate Legal Protections, New Report Documents Unfair Workplace Treatment

Washington, D.C; May 28, 2014—Today, as Exxon Mobil’s shareholders are expected to vote again to deny workplace protections to its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (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 widespread discrimination faced by LGBT people 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 explicit legal protections.

“An executive order by President 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 commonsense 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 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% of LGB workers and 78% of transgender workers had heard derogatory remarks or jokes at work. A different survey found 26% of transgender workers were unfairly fired because they were transgender and 47% said they had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being ?red, 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 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% of Americans support workplace nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers. Yet the same poll revealed that 75% 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/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 LGB workers and 57% 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 (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 the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress (CAP), Freedom to Work, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

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MAP's mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life.

Media Contacts:
Calla Rongerude
Movement Advancement Project (MAP)
(415) 205-2420

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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.

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“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.

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