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New York City’s transgender community faces significant employment discrimination, new report finds

Transgender and gender non-conforming people are five times more likely to be unemployed.

TGNC individuals are five times more likely to be unemployed, and among those with college degrees, more than four times more likely to be making less than $30,000 a year than their non-TGNC peers, a new report from the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) has found. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)
TGNC individuals are five times more likely to be unemployed, and among those with college degrees, more than four times more likely to be making less than $30,000 a year than their non-TGNC peers, a new report from the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) has found. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) released a new report Tuesday detailing systemic discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people across the city.

Compared to the general New York City population, TGNC individuals are five times more likely to be unemployed, and among those with college degrees, more than four times more likely to be making less than $30,000 a year, the report found.

The report also outlines specific barriers TGNC people face while trying to find a job. Thirty-one percent reported experiencing discrimination before they even finished applying for jobs because they were asked what gender they were assigned at birth, a question employers are not legally allowed to ask. Others said they were asked for references from past employers who only knew them by their “dead name,” or the name they used before they transitioned.

Over half of respondents said they were forced to educate their coworkers about their identities, and a third reported being isolated by coworkers and receiving unwanted sexual comments. Many were overqualified for their jobs, while others said non-TGNC peers received higher salaries for the same work. A third of respondents said they were unable to use their health insurance to receive the gender affirming care they needed.

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“I was basically forced into being queer Google for the entire staff,” one respondent said. “I had coworkers asking about my genitals, sex life, surgeries, and other uncomfortable questions but then no one would sit with me on break.”

Several TGNC people reported hiding their identities from their employers to avoid  retaliation or punishment, such as being denied a promotion. One respondent explained that they avoided correcting coworkers when they used improper pronouns; another allegedly had to take sick time to recover from traumatic experiences in the workplace. Two separate respondents reported being outed when their old names were shared on documents visible to their coworkers.

Renata Ramos, a 57-year-old transfeminine Latina immigrant, claimed she lost a catering job when she transitioned because the business owner was allegedly concerned about “how their customers would react.” She claimed she was repeatedly told by employers such Trader Joe’s and a local dollar store that there were no open positions for which she could apply.

ThinkProgress has reached out to Trader Joe’s for comment on the allegation.

Lolan Sevilla, an AVP training coordinator and co-author of the report, told ThinkProgress that for many TGNC individuals, instances of discrimination were often compounded by their race. “For example, there was a significant disparity between trans and gender non-conforming people of color and white respondents on education, employment, and income,” they said, noting TGNC people of color with bachelor’s degrees were nearly four times more likely than to their white counterparts to make less than $10,000 a year.

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“In order for us to have true economic justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, these issues must be looked at, and addressed, holistically with a framework that includes other identities held like race, disability, and immigration status,” Sevilla said.

New York City protects against employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, and has even issued guidance specifying that those protections apply to issues like correct name and pronoun usage in the workplace. The report recommended the city take things one step further and create educational opportunities and employment programs to help TGNC individuals overcome inequities they still face while attempting to enter the workforce.

It’s often impossible for TGNC individuals to know whether they are being treated differently, as many are simply unaware of the favorable treatment afforded to their non-TGNC peers. The report therefore recommends screening employers to ensure they are welcoming of TGNC employees through methods like resume testing.

The Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights conducted one such test in 2015, sending various fake resumes to different employers, some with indications that the invented job candidate was transgender. In nearly half of the tests, employers favored a less-qualified cisgender candidate over a more qualified transgender candidate. As a result, the office was able to take enforcement actions against several of these employers for violating nondiscrimination laws, even though no real-life transgender people experienced discrimination.

New York City has used a similar process for identifying anti-transgender discrimination at substance abuse centers.

Chanel Lopez, Transgender Communities Liaison at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, emphasized the importance of such work and the need to continue pushing for more transparency in a statement Tuesday. “As we know all too well at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, TGNC individuals endure a range of discrimination and harassment in their daily lives, including in the workplace,” she said. “This is simply unacceptable.”


UPDATE: In a email to ThinkProgress, a Trader Joe’s spokesperson addressed questions about Renata Ramos’ discrimination allegations by reiterating the company’s non-discrimination policies and saying it offered diversity training to “newly hired Crew Members and those in supervisory roles.”

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“We have addressed gender diversity on many levels; and in our opinion, Trader Joe’s is a leader in this area. Our Crew is as diverse as our products,” they said.