More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination. Refusal to hire, privacy violations, harassment, and even physical and sexual violence on the job are common occurrences, and are experienced at even higher rates by transgender people of color. Many people report changing jobs to avoid discrimination or the risk of discrimination. Extreme levels of unemployment and poverty lead one in eight to become involved in underground economies—such as sex and drug work—in order to survive.
While many states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and over 200 local jurisdictions, and hundreds of employers have adopted clear laws or policies to prohibit this discrimination, just about half the nation still lives without these clear protections. Trans people can also face discrimination in the jobs programs meant to connect them with job opportunities and/or training. In recent years, courts and federal agencies have increasingly taken the view that job discrimination against transgender people is prohibited by existing laws against sex discrimination. This inclusive understanding of sex discrimination laws, accepted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012, has the potential to be a powerful tool to combat employment bias. The EEOC has now investigated and settled many cases on behalf of transgender workers and has identified LGBT workers’ rights as an enforcement priority. We strongly urge workers facing discrimination to use these protections and seek legal help. NCTE will continue to press for a federal, state, and local laws to prohibit gender identity discrimination in the most specific terms in order to ensure that employers understand and consistently follow the law.