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Report on Transgender Employment Discrimination in New York Finds Ongoing Bias

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Julian Brolaski, a transgender man that was refused work at J. Crew (NY Daily News)

On Sunday, LGBT rights supporters gathered outside J Crew on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to protest the results of a recent report that found the retailer biased against openly transgender applicants.  Make the Road New York, a non-profit that promotes economic justice, equity and opportunity for all New Yorkers, conducted research into the hiring practices of 24 retail stores in Manhattan by sending two otherwise evenly matched applicants into the stores, one transgender and one not.  On Sunday, they released their findings in a report titled “Transgender Need Not Apply: A Report on Gender Identity Job Discrimination.”

According to the New York Daily News, one of the openly transgender applicants, Yo Smith (a 39-year-old transwoman performance artist), did not receive a single job offer from the dozens of retailers she applied to, but her non-trans counterpart received eight.

Overall, the report “found a 42 percent net rate of discrimination for transgender job applicants... [and] 49 percent of transgender workers surveyed reported that they have never been offered a job in the time that they have lived openly as transgender.”

A listing of the results by employer can be found on The Gothamist blog.  Atop the list sits J Crew, where one of the transgender test applicants “was treated brusquely, told to fill out an application and was never called,” while his cisgender* testing counterpart was interviewed on the spot and offered a job soon after.

As Make the Road New York’s Irene Tung told The Gothamist, “The two separate instances of discrimination are considered by the Attorney General and also by social scientists who specialize in matched pair testing, to be especially egregious because they represent a pattern of discrimination. So it is this pattern of discrimination we are singling out at J. Crew.”  The group has filed a job-discrimination complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reported that this effort has been endorsed by the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union, FIERCE, LGBT Equality Coalition of Queens, Queers for Economic Justice and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

While New York City Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination on the basis of either sexual orientation or gender identity, openly transgender job applicants have continued to experience discrimination, as this report confirms.  New York still lacks state-wide protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, although advocates are hopeful that the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) will pass through the New York Senate this year, after an early-March victory in the Assembly, where it has now passed three times.

GLAAD will continue to keep you updated on media coverage of employment discrimination against transgender people.

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* In her book, Transgender History, Susan Stryker defines cisgender as preferred over nontransgender. The prefix cis means “on the same side as” (that is, the opposite of trans). The idea behind the term is to resist the way that “woman” or “man” can mean “nontransgender woman” or “nontransgender man” by default.  “Cisgender” names the usually unstated assumption of nontransgender status contained in the words “man” and woman.”