Discrimination Against State and Local Government LGBT Employees: An Analysis of Administrative Complaints

By Christy Mallory, Brad Sears
July 2014

This study documents evidence of discrimination against LGBT state and local government workers, and assesses administrative enforcement of laws and ordinances that protect these workers.  The study is based on a survey of 222 state and local administrative agencies which provided data on 589 complaints of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity filed by state and local government workers.  Overall, the study finds that sexual orientation complaint filings with state enforcement agencies are slightly lower, but similar, for employees in the public sector when compared to the private sector. The filing rate for state and local employees is 3 for every 10,000 LGB employees compared to 4 for every 10,000 LGB employees in the private sector.  There were not enough data to do a similar analysis of gender identity discrimination complaints.  The study also finds that administrative enforcement agencies, particularly at the local level, may not be able to effectively handle complaints due to a lack of staff and resources.  Of the 201 local administrative agencies contacted, 96 failed to respond, including several large metropolitan areas.  Further, several of the responding agencies provided information that indicated an inability to handle complaints effectively.  The findings suggest that the record of complaints gathered in this study understates the pervasiveness of discrimination against LGBT people.  Currently, no federal statute prohibits employment discrimination against LGBT people and most states do not have laws prohibiting such discrimination.

*Article originally published in the LGBTQ Policy Journal at the Harvard Kennedy School

Click here for the full study.

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