Report

Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Virginia

January 2015

Virginia’s employment non-discrimination law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving LGBT people in the state vulnerable to discrimination. Adding these characteristics to Virginia’s existing law would provide protections to LGBT people and would not be costly or burdensome for the state to enforce.

Highlights
Discrimination against LGBT people in Virginia has been documented in surveys, lawsuits, and the media.
Some local governments and private employers in Arkansas have adopted non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, but coverage is incomplete.
Public opinion in Virginia supports the passage of non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
Data Points
124,000
LGBT people aged 16+ are in Virginia’s workforce
79%
of Virginia residents think that LGBT people experience discrimination in the state
6%
of Virginia's workforce is protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Report

Executive Summary

More than 4% of the American workforce identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Approximately 124,000 of these workers live in Virginia. Virginia does not have a statewide law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in both public and private sector employment.

This report summarizes recent evidence of sexual orientation and gender identity employment discrimination, explains the limited current protections from sexual orientation and gender identity employment discrimination in Virginia, and estimates the administrative impact of passing a law prohibiting employment discrimination based on these characteristics in the state.

1

Key Findings

  • In total there are approximately 191,000 LGBT adults in Virginia, including nearly 124,000 who are part of Virginia’s workforce.2
  • Media reports and lawsuits document incidents of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination against employees in Virginia. These include reports from a police officer, a college volleyball coach, a museum employee, and an attorney.
  • National surveys find that discrimination against LGBT workers is prevalent across the country. Most recently, a 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that 21% of LGBT respondents had been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions.
  • When transgender people are surveyed separately, they report similar or higher levels of discrimination. For example, as recently as 2010, 80% of respondents from Virginia to the largest survey of transgender people to date reported having experienced harassment or mistreatment at work.
  • Disparities in wages are another way that discrimination has traditionally been measured. Census data show that in Virginia, the median income of men in same-sex couples is 10% lower than the median income of men in different-sex marriages.
  • A gubernatorial executive order in Virginia provides protection from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination for state government employees.
  • Three localities in Virginia have ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity: Arlington County, Alexandria, and Charlottesville.
  • Approximately 94% of Virginia’s local government and private sector workforce is not covered by a local ordinance that prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Over 99% of Virginia’s local government and private sector workforce is not covered by a local ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.3
  • Private companies may adopt internal non-discrimination policies to improve recruitment and retention of talented employees, to increase employee productivity and customer satisfaction, or to attract a larger customer base. Twenty-five of the 33 Fortune 1000 companies based in Virginia have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 17 of those companies also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
  • Public opinion in Virginia supports the passage of a statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to a 2013 survey conducted in Virginia, 80%of the nearly 700 people surveyed said that employers should not be able to discriminate against their employees based on sexual orientation. In addition, other polls find that 79% of Virginia residents think that LGBT people experience a moderate amount to a lot of discrimination in the state.
  • Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Virginia Human Rights Act would result in at most 5 additional complaints being filed with the Virginia Division of Human Rights each year.
  • The additional cases could most likely be absorbed into Virginia’s administrative system with minimal impact on the budget, staff, and resources.

Download the full report

Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Virginia

Findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, Virginia Results, National Center for Trangender Gay and Lesbian Task Force, http://www.thetaskforce.org/static_html/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_state/ntds_state_va.pdf.

These estimates were reached by applying the percentage of people in Virginia that are LGBT (2.9%) to the population of Virginia aged 16 years and older (6,601,767) and the number of people in the Virginia civilian labor force (4,269,122), respectively. Gary J. Gates & Frank Newport, LGBT Percentage Highest in D.C., Lowest in North Dakota, Gallup, Feb. 15, 2013, http://www.gallup.com/poll/160517/lgbt-percentage-highest-lowest-north-dakota.aspx; American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, 2012 ACS Table DP03: Selected Economic Characteristics, 1-Year Estimates, available at http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_5YR_DP03.

Calculated by authors using data from the American Community Survey, 2010-2012 3-Year-Estimates, Sex by Class of Worker tables available at http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml (last visited August 11, 2014).