Less Than Half Of Us Workers Are Protected From Anti-LGBT Discrimination Under State Law

Our guest blogger is Crosby Burns, Research Associate for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

More than half of US workers in today’s labor force work in a state where it remains perfectly legal under state law to fire someone for being gay or transgender, according to new research from the Center for American Progress.

Congress has yet to pass a law making it illegal to fire workers for being gay or transgender. Congress must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to ensure that all workers in all states have statutory protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Until then, what remains is a patchwork of state laws that afford legal protections to gay and transgender workers in some states, and others that offer none at all. 21 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, 16 of which do so on the basis of gender identity.


The Center for American Progress breaks down the numbers that underscore the need for federal legislation to help combat employment discrimination against this vulnerable population:

  • 76,300,000 workers, or 55% of all workers, can be unduly forced into unemployment based on sexual orientation- or gender identity-discrimination
  • 42,044,205 children currently live in a state that has failed to pass a law that would make firing their parent, guardian, or other caretaker illegal
  • In terms of area, 71%of the square mileage in the United States are in states that afford no legal protections for gay and transgender workers
  • 75% of all US counties are in states where it remains legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender under state law
  • 9,039,863 manufacturing workers, 1,611,657 famers, and 1,816,964 K-12 teachers live and work in states that do not have statutes outlawing sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination
  • African-Americans are more likely to live in states without these protections. 67% lack sexual orientation and gender identity protections, compared to 55% of the general population

It is worth mentioning that a recent watershed decision from the EEOC found that discrimination against transgender individuals based on their gender identity falls within Title VII’s prohibition on “sex” discrimination. While this ruling gives transgender individuals workplace protections, statutory protections are necessary to affirm and clarify that discrimination based on gender identity is illegal in all 50 states under federal law.

Check out the Center for American Progress’ full infographic on this topic here.