New report highlights rampant hiring bias against qualified transgender applicants

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Hold up. I need to catch my breath after last night’s episode of The Walking Dead.

(Don’t worry. No spoilers ahead).

Last week, I blogged here about the EEOC’s new Strategic Enforcement Plan. In that post, I singled out the EEOC’s pivot to “clarify[] the employment relationship and the application of workplace civil rights protections in light of the increasing complexity of employment relationships and structures, including temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships, and the on-demand economy.”

In that same Plan, go one line up.

You’ll see that the EEOC’s mission is also “protecting lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination based on sex.” Indeed, the EEOC is currently involved in a number of high-profile LGBT cases right now, like the ones discussed in this recent post.

Unfortunately, discrimination against LGBT workers remains a problem. A recent report from the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights entitled, “qualified and transgender” highlights the particularly odious discrimination faced by the transgender community in the hiring process. You can view the Executive Summary here and the full report here. Here’s a sampling:

  • 48 percent of employers appeared to prefer at least one less-qualified applicant perceived as cisgender over a more-qualified applicant perceived as transgender.
  • 33 percent of employers offered interviews to one or more less-qualified applicant(s) perceived as cisgender while not offering an interview to at least one of the more-qualified applicant(s) perceived as transgender.
  • The applicant perceived as a transgender man with work experience at a transgender advocacy organization experienced the highest individual rate of discrimination.
  • The restaurant industry had the highest percentage of responses perceived as discriminatory among the employment sectors tested, although the sample numbers are low and therefore not conclusive.

Although most federal courts have concluded that federal anti-discrimination law does not protect transgender individuals (except to the extent that employers engage in sex stereotyping), many states and localities do provide protections. Further, even absent any law to the contrary, many businesses have rules protecting transgender employees.

But, it’s only a matter of time before all LGBT individuals enjoy the same workplace rights and protects as others.

Thus, the bulleted findings above stress how important it is for employers to extend the focus of workplace training beyond the impact on current employees. Rather, employers should expand their education efforts to hiring managers and other folks involved in onboarding to help avoid the issues highlighted in the report.

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