On #MayDay, we demand LGBTQ workers get anti-discrimination protections

May Day (May 1) is International Workers’ Day, and since 2000 that has included increased attention to migrant workers. Immigrant rights activists point out that there are various motivations for  making the journey. Some of these reasons include geopolitical causes, the importance of family reunification, and, for asylum seekers (including some LGBTQ immigrants), fleeing persecution and discrimination. Immigrants have been mistreated and unfairly targeted by the Trump administration, we need to recognize their fight for basic rights. May Day gives people an opportunity to talk about the gender wage gap, the mistreatment of migrant workers, the need for a living wage and the lack of protections against employment discrimination for LGBTQ workers. So, let’s take this May Day to acknowledge laborers by remembering that we still have a ways to go before all workers are treated equally.

Here are some resources that illuminate the plight of LGBTQ workers generally and LGBTQ immigrant workers in particular.

A report by Out and Equal cites the impact of the lack of protections on LGBTQ employees:

  • 1 in 4 LGBTQ workers reported experiencing some kind of LGBTQ discrimination
  • Only 28% feel comfortable enough to be out at work
  • Nearly 1 in 10 LGBTQ employees have left their jobs because of the unwelcoming environment the job exhibited

This lack of protection negatively affects businesses as well. Not only are companies missing out on the talent of LGBTQ workers, but businesses where LGBTQ employees are not protected from discrimination face low staff morale possibly incurring more health insurance costs. 

Of LGBTQ workers surveyed, 21% have reported experiencing workplace discrimination resulting in not getting a job, promotion, or a raise. These statistics are even worse for transgender workers at 28%. Surveys show the transgender unemployment rate is three times higher than the national average.

The Movement Advancement Project, MAP, reports on the state of legislative protections for LGBTQ workers across the country, finding that only about half of the states have passed such protections. The states that do have anti-discrimination policies are not always fully inclusive, either, as only 21 of these states include gender identity alongside sexual identity.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), federal legislation that was going to end workplace discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation would have made it possible for LGBTQ workers to count on federal protections if their state had failed to pass legislation. However, legislators have failed to pass ENDA.

LGBTQ undocumented workers, who already face roadblocks to achieving full citizenship and legal protections, are left with even less protection than most workers. These workers, regardless of sexual or gender identity, are more likely to be exploited by their employer, refused adequate pay, and subjected to discrimination at work. From fear of being deported, they are also left with less options for recourse in cases of anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Undocumented LGBTQ employees fear being “outed,” not only as LGBTQ, but for their citizenship status, as well.

The Center for American Progress showed the disparities between annual wages of the general population, versus undocumented workers, LGBTQ families, and a more appalling gap reflected in transgender individuals’ wages.

Luckily, undocumented LGBTQ workers still have the right to report anti-LGBTQ discrimination in their workplace. Undocumented workers can turn to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate their employers’ discrimination. The commission is not allowed to consider citizenship status in their investigation.

Recently we have seen some advances for LGBTQ employees. For example, as of 2017, 92% of all Fortune 500 companies support their employees with non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, 82% including gender identity in their policies, and 50% including transgender-inclusive healthcare options.

Advocates are also working to create legislation specifically meant to protect and define all LGBTQ workers rights, like the Equality Act, which includes protections across housing, education, and employment. It has been introduced to the House of Representatives and has the opportunity to revolutionize the way LGBTQ workers are treated.

May Day is a good time to advocate for all workers, including those who are LGBTQ and including those who are migrants. There is plenty of information that will help us all understand the plight of LGBTQ immigrant workers and help us advocate for equality and protections for all.