Georgia’s state non-discrimination law protects state workers but does not protect workers in the private sector. The law also does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. An estimated 3.5% of Georgia’s workforce, 170,000 workers, identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Of those workers, approximately 7,500 work for the state government, 10,600 work for local governments, and 151,900 work in the private sector.
This report summarizes evidence of sexual orientation and gender identity employment discrimination in government employment, explains the limited current protections from sexual orientation and gender identity employment discrimination in Georgia, and estimates the administrative impact of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Georgia’s state government employment non-discrimination law.
- In total there are approximately 269,000 LGBT adults in Georgia, including 7,507 who work for the state government.
- There are no statewide protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Georgia.
- Media reports and lawsuits document incidents of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination against state government employees in Georgia, including reports from a legislative editor for the Georgia General Assembly, a public university professor, and an employee of the Georgia Division of Family and Child Services.
- A recent survey in Georgia reflects discrimination and negative attitudes toward LGBT people in the workplace. A 2011 survey of more than 2,000 LGBT Georgians found that 25% of those surveyed reported having been discriminated against in employment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 45% of the respondents reported experiencing homophobia, transphobia or harassment at work in the preceding year.
- National surveys also confirm that discrimination against LGBT workers persists. 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. The 2008 General Social Survey found that among public sector LGB employees, one in five had experienced some form of discrimination.
- When transgender people are surveyed separately, they report similar or higher levels of discrimination. For example, as recently as 2010, 78% of respondents to the largest survey of transgender people to date reported having experienced harassment or mistreatment at work, and 47% reported having been discriminated against in hiring, promotion, or job retention because of their gender identity. Among respondents from Georgia, 80% reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job, and 34% reported losing a job, on the basis of their gender identity.
- Disparities in wages are an additional way that discrimination has traditionally been measured. Studies have found that LGB government employees earn 8% to 29% less than their heterosexual counterparts.
- At least 35 Georgia localities provide protection from sexual orientation discrimination in public employment by local ordinance or personnel policy. Twelve of these localities also provide protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. One ordinance –Atlanta’s – also prohibits discrimination in private employment throughout the city. Additionally, an ordinance in College Park prohibits city government contractors from discriminating against their employees based on sexual orientation.
- Approximately 70% of Georgia’s local government workforce is not covered by a local ordinance or personnel policy that prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in public employment, and approximately 94% of Georgia’s local government workforce is not covered by a local ordinance that prohibits gender identity discrimination in public employment.
- All public universities in the University System of Georgia have policies prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Several public universities also prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity, including the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clayton State University, and Southern Polytechnic State University.
- Public opinion in Georgia supports prohibitions on workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to a 2013 survey, 79% of voters surveyed in Georgia said that it should be, or probably should be, illegal for government employers in Georgia to discriminate against their employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Although there is no statewide legal protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a 2013 opinion survey by Public Policy Polling found strong support for protections from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. In that opinion survey, 72 percent of respondents said that such discrimination should not be allowed, while 17 percent stated that it is acceptable.
- Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s current law prohibiting discrimination in state government employment would result in approximately two additional complaints being filed with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity each year.
- Because the number of discrimination complaints filed with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity varies by several complaints from year to year, the anticipated new complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity could most likely be absorbed into the existing system with no need for additional staff and negligible costs.