REPORT: Majority Of LGBT Public Sector Workers Lack Employment Protections

Our guest blogger is Hilary Brandenburg, intern at the Center for American Progress.

This weekend, Americans will take a day off from work to celebrate Labor Day, a day dedicated to the progress Americans have achieved in the workplace over the years. The U.S. Department of Labor website notes that Labor Day is a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” However, not all workers are equal under the law. LGBT workers continue to face high rates of workplace discrimination and often receive unequal benefits for equal work for them and their families.

Knowing this, the Center for American Progress and AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the nation’s largest and fastest growing public services employees union, released a report entitled “Gay and Transgender Discrimination in the Public Sector: Why It’s a Problem for State and Local Governments, Employees, and Taxpayers.”

According to this report, a majority of state government employees are currently working in states that fail to offer legal protections to LGBT public sector workers. With approximately one million LGBT individuals in America working in state, local, or municipal government, only 21 states and the District of Columbia have any laws specifically protecting gay workers, and only 16 of those do so for transgender workers. Looking at coverage:

  • 57 percent of state employees work in a state where no legal protections are afforded to gay individuals.
  • 69 percent live in state where no legal protections are afforded to transgender individuals.
  • Only a minority of state employees (just over four in ten, or 42.6 percent) work in a state with a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • Only three in ten (31.8 percent) work in a state with a law also prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.

Similarly, CAP and AFSCME find that a majority (53 percent) of state government employees do not have equal access to health insurance for them and their partners.


Discrimination and unequal treatment are unfortunate realities for far too many of our nation’s LGBT public sector workers. This is harmful to LGBT workers who all too often find themselves without a job or a way to make ends meet due to employment discrimination. This is harmful to running an efficient public sector, since discrimination imposes costs and inefficiencies for governments. And it is harmful to taxpayers, who are left with the bill to cover these costs.

Among many policy recommendations, this report calls on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, EDNA, making discrimination against a worker based on their sexual orientation or gender identity a crime in all 50 states. States should similarly pass laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers and laws the extend the full range of workplace benefits to employees with same-sex partners.

LGBT public servants go to work every day as firefighters, teachers, policemen and women, nurses, library workers, child care providers, and sanitation workers to provide for our communities, to help care for our children and families, and to keep America functioning. This Labor Day, we must continue to fight for progress and demand better for LGBT employees, taxpayers, and our public sector.