New report examines the ‘Broken Bargain’ — hardships, barriers facing LGBT workers


Staff Reports

WASHINGTON — A comprehensive report released Tuesday examines the myriad of hardships and barriers facing LGBT workers in the U.S., from being able to be fired, denied equal benefits and be required to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The report — “A Broken Bargain” — by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress (CAP), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts together for the first time all available information about LGBT workplace issues.

According to the report, “If fairness and equality are part of America’s basic workplace bargain, this bargain is clearly broken for LGBT workers. This broken bargain, in turn, can create an untenable situation for employers.”

“For LGBT workers, hard work is often rewarded by bias, fewer workplace benefits, and higher taxes,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of MAP.

“Imagine doing the same job as your coworker, but being told that your child, unlike your coworkers’, is excluded from the company’s health insurance plan,” said Mushovic.

“Imagine making the same mandatory contributions to Social Security, only to know that your family, unlike your coworkers’, will be denied benefits should something happen to you. Then, on top of it all, imagine being hit with a much higher tax bill,” he said.

According the report, Americans’ basic “bargain” is broken for LGBT workers in areas that included:

  • Lack of nondiscrimination protections: No federal law and only a minority of states provide explicit protections for LGBT workers, even though protections exist for other workers based on factors such as race, national origin, religion, ethnicity, and disability. Progress has perhaps been impeded by the fact that 89% of Americans mistakenly believe that it is already illegal under federal law to fire someone simply for being LGBT.

  • Family and medical leave:
    LGBT workers are denied equal access to unpaid leave to provide care for a same-sex spouse or partner. Transgender workers are often denied medical leave for transition-related medical care.
  • Family health benefits: An employer that extends family health benefits to married opposite-sex couples can legally deny that same coverage to married and unmarried same-sex couples. When LGBT workers do receive these benefits, middle-income families pay an estimated $3,200 in extra taxes on them, although heterosexual workers get the same benefits tax-free.

  • Spousal retirement benefits: LGBT workers are systematically denied Social Security spousal benefits designed to protect workers’ families during their retirement years. This costs retired same-sex couples up to $14,484 per year, and a surviving same-sex widow or widower up to $28,968 per year. Same-sex partners also may also be denied pension survivor benefits.

  • Death and disability benefits: If an LGBT worker dies or becomes disabled, the worker’s same-sex spouse—and in some cases, his or her children—will be denied Social Security disability and survivor benefits, costing a surviving spouse with two children as much as $29,520 in annual benefits.

“Even if same-sex couples could marry in all 50 states tomorrow, it would still be perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay under federal law and in a majority of states,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress.

“In other words, workers would be able to marry the person they love, but if they put that wedding picture on their desk, they might lose their job,” she said. “While we are seeing recent victories on the marriage equality front, we must do more to address the real and serious problem of employment discrimination against LGBT workers.”

The report’s authors also found that most American businesses agree that the “Broken Bargain” need fixing.

“America’s most successful businesses want a level playing field for workers across the country,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“In addition to treating their own LGBT employees with dignity and respect, over 90 major businesses have also joined the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness. Treating everyone fairly through federal law is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for companies’ bottom line,” said Griffin.

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“Small business owners know that nothing creates success like hard work, and they want policies in place that help them find and retain the most talented, hard working employees this country has to offer,” said Small Business Majority Vice President of External Affairs Rhett Buttle.

“But current law often forces them to treat some employees differently than others, and that only hurts them, their workers and the overall success of our economy. It is no surprise that our national April 2013 survey found that 67% of small businesses support extending federal workplace protections to gay and transgender employees,” said Buttle.

Among the broad policy recommendations detailed in the report: addressing inadequate federal and state nondiscrimination protections, extending legal recognition for the partners and children of LGBT workers, and changing benefit, immigration and tax law to ensure equal treatment for LGBT workers and their families.

The full report is available here.

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