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Gay and Transgender Discrimination in the Public Sector

Gay and Transgender Discrimination in the Public Sector
Gay and Transgender Discrimination in the Public Sector
Published September 2012
By Crosby Burns, Kate Childs Graham, and Sam Menefee-Libey
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Gay and Transgender Discrimination in the Public Sector

Why It’s a Problem for State and Local Governments, Employees, and Taxpayers

This new report by AFSCME and the Center for American Progress (CAP) shows that when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) public workers experience on-the-job discrimination, it isn’t only the workers who suffer, but taxpayers, too.

Government employers who discriminate have a harder time recruiting and retaining the best workers. They suffer from diminished workplace productivity. They expose themselves to costly litigation. In short, discrimination against LGBT workers makes government inefficient, which, in the end, costs taxpayers.

The Union Difference

In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36.2 percent of public-sector workers were union members, compared to 6.9 percent of private-sector workers. At 42 percent, union membership was highest among local government workers, followed by 31 percent of state employees and 26.8 percent of federal workers.

Union membership gives gay and transgender public workers the edge in bargaining for equal benefits and protections that are necessary to shield themselves from discrimination on the job.

When they are members of a union, same-sex domestic partners have better access to benefits such as health care and retirement security. Fifty-three percent of state and local workers with union representation had access to health care coverage for same-sex domestic partners, compared to only 17 percent of nonunion state and local workers and 29 percent of private-sector workers (union and nonunion).

Similarly, 57 percent of state and local union workers had access to survivor benefits in retirement for same-sex domestic partners, as compared to 47 percent of nonunion public-sector workers and just 7 percent of workers in the private sector (union and nonunion).

Just as importantly, union membership enhances job security. Union workers can be fired only with just cause and often have access to grievance procedures and arbitration. Additionally, many union contracts do what the law does not: protect workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Within the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest union of public-sector workers, as of January 2018 more than 1,700 union contracts include sexual orientation within a nondiscrimination clause, and many include gender identity language.

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