US: Study reveals transgender workers are at greater risk for unemployment and poverty

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A new report has revealed that transgender workers in the US experience unemployment at twice the rate of the population as a whole, and are four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000 (£6,400).

The report released this week, entitled ‘A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers,’ is a companion to the recently released report, ‘A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits, and More Taxes for LGBT Workers.’

It is co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), the Center for American Progress (CAP), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in partnership with Freedom to Work, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, and SEIU.

The report shows that transgender workers report unemployment at 14% – which is double the rate of the population as a whole at 7%.

44% of transgender people who are currently working are also underemployed.

Transgender workers are also at 15% for having household incomes under $10,000 – which is four times the rate of the population as a whole at 4%

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE, said: “This new report underscores the harsh reality of what it means to live and work as a transgender person in this country. Like other workers, transgender Americans deserve to be judged by our work and contributions and not by one aspect of who we are.”

Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of MAP, also explained how these figures have come to light.

She said: “Unfair laws and policies impose real, everyday burdens on transgender workers across the country. It’s shocking that in this day and age, federal non-discrimination law still does not explicitly protect a high-performing worker from being fired just because he or she is transgender.”

The study also found that, unlike cisgender workers, trans people are denied equal access to both health benefits and medical leave. For example, transition-based healthcare is often excluded in health insurance policies, and companies may deny work leave for transition-related purposes, incorrectly stating that such care does not constitute a “serious medical condition.”

Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at CAP, said: “Far too often, employers offer health benefits that do not provide the coverage and medical leave that are crucial to the wellbeing and security of transgender workers and their families.

“Workplace fairness means more than freedom from harassment; it means equal access to the benefits that transgender employees need to live healthy and productive lives.”

Recent CAP polling showed that 73% of voters support protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination. Despite this support, no federal law provides explicit legal protections for transgender workers based on gender identity.

Jeff Krehely, Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer at the Human Rights Campaign, said: “Despite the progress made at the local, state, and federal levels, transgender Americans face workplace discrimination at alarming rates.

“The EEOC’s recent decision in Holder v. Macy, which found that discrimination against transgender workers is prohibited since it is a form of sex-based discrimination, was important; however we have a ways to go until we are able to end the cycle of discrimination, unemployment, and underemployment of qualified workers who are willing and able to contribute to society in meaningful and productive ways.”

The full report (PDF) with in-depth analysis can be found on the MAP website.

A UK report in August released about anti-LGBT hate crimes in London also found that despite the number of crimes reported to police being on the decline, the LGBT community is still experiencing high levels of abuse, with 75% of trans people and one in eight gay people the victim of a hate crime each year in the UK.

Another survey in August revealed that a large majority of LGB Britons still live in fear of discrimination.