19,900 LGBT Workers in South Dakota Lack Statewide Protections against Ongoing Employment Discrimination

For Immediate Distribution
Aug. 13, 2015

Contact:
Lauren Jow, jow@law.ucla.edu, 310-206-0314

LOS ANGELES — Approximately 19,900 LGBT workers in South Dakota are vulnerable to employment discrimination absent explicit statewide legal protections, according to a new report co-authored by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute. Only 0.3 percent of South Dakota’s workforce is covered by local laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“A statewide law prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity would bring new protections to thousands of workers without burdening courts and agencies,” said Christy Mallory, senior counsel at the Williams Institute. “Most likely, the cost of handling complaints filed under the law could be absorbed into the existing enforcement system with no need for additional staff or resources.”

The report finds evidence of ongoing discrimination against LGBT people in South Dakota:

• No localities in South Dakota have ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in private sector employment. Four localities, however, ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in local government employment.

• Census data show that in South Dakota, the median income of men and women in same-sex couples is, respectively, 20 percent and 66 percent lower than their counterparts in different-sex marriages.

• Aggregated data from two large public opinion polls find that 78 percent of South Dakota residents think that LGBT people experience a moderate amount to a lot of discrimination in the state.

• Several recent instances of employment discrimination against LGBT people in South Dakota have been documented in media reports and lawsuits, including a report from a transgender grocery store clerk and a gay restaurant employee.

• Survey data show that, nationally, 21% of LGBT respondents report being treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions.

Employer policies and public opinion indicate support for non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in South Dakota:

• More than 40 leading companies in South Dakota have adopted internal policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

• In response to a national poll conducted in 2011, 70 percent of respondents from South Dakota said that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be prohibited in the U.S.

A statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity would not be burdensome or costly to enforce:

• The law would result in approximately nine additional complaints being filed each year in South Dakota.

• The anticipated new complaints could most likely be absorbed into the existing system with no need for additional staff and negligible costs.

Findings from the South Dakota report are consistent with national data.

Click here for the full report.