About 13,400 LGBT Workers in Montana Lack Statewide Protections against Ongoing Employment Discrimination

For Immediate Distribution
March 26, 2015

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

LOS ANGELES — About 13,400 LGBT workers in Montana are vulnerable to employment discrimination absent explicit statewide legal protections, according to a new report co-authored by Christy Mallory, Senior Counsel, and Brad Sears, Executive Director, at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.  Currently, a gubernatorial executive order in Montana prohibits sexual orientation discrimination for state government employees, and four localities have local ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but about 81% of Montana’s workforce is not covered by these laws.

“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,” Mallory said. “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 Montana:

– In response to a poll of Montana residents conducted in 2008, 67% of respondents said that they strongly or somewhat supported a legislative proposal to extend the state’s current equal protection laws for housing, employment, and benefits to gay and lesbian Montanans. In addition, other polls have found that 79% of Montana residents think that LGBT people experience a moderate amount to a lot of discrimination in the state.

– Census data show that in Montana, the median income of men in same-sex couples is 61% lower than men in different sex marriages.

– Survey data show that, nationally, 21% of LGBT respondents report being treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions.  Among transgender survey respondents, 78% report having experienced harassment or mistreatment at work.

– Employment discrimination against LGBT people has also been documented in court cases, state and local administrative complaints, complaints to community-based organizations, academic journals, newspapers, books, and other media.  Additionally, a number of federal, state, and local administrative agencies and legislative bodies have acknowledged that LGBT people have faced widespread discrimination in employment.

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

– Several large private sector employers based in Montana have adopted corporate policies that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, and the University of Montana and the Montana State University systems have policies prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

– In response to a national poll conducted in 2011, 76% of respondents from Montana 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 six additional complaints being filed each year with the Montana Human Rights Bureau.

– 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 Montana report are consistent with national data.

For full report, click here.

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