“At present, there are no federal laws that sufficiently protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers from being fired simply because of who they are or who they love. American workers should be judged by one thing only: their ability to get the job done…
…American workers should be able to walk into work every day with full confidence that their identity won’t cost them their jobs…. Overt discrimination is not just wrong, it also can hurt productivity and keep qualified workers from being matched to the best jobs for them. That’s why companies have found for decades that fair workplace policies are a cost-effective way to recruit, retain and motivate employees, including LGBT workers.”, Valerie Jarrett and Jason Furman, The Wall Street Journal
Taking Action on Workplace Equality
Barring discrimination on the job because of sexual orientation is good for business.
By VALERIE JARRETT And JASON FURMAN
July 23, 2014 7:35 p.m. ET
American workers serve as this country’s most vital sources of energy, creativity and economic stimulus. This makes it critical to ensure they are treated fairly in the workplace and are confident in the fundamental American belief that hard work, and playing by the rules, are what matter most for anyone looking to get ahead in this nation’s 21st-century workforce.
That’s why an executive order signed this week by the president is so important. At present, there are no federal laws that sufficiently protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers from being fired simply because of who they are or who they love. American workers should be judged by one thing only: their ability to get the job done. American workers should be able to walk into work every day with full confidence that their identity won’t cost them their jobs.
Yet LGBT workers consistently face discrimination. Studies by the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank focused on LGBT legal and policy issues, show that 42% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people report having experienced workplace discrimination at some point in their lives, including 16% who report losing a job because of their sexual orientation. Estimates from the Williams Institute also suggest that gay and bisexual men earn 10%-32% less than heterosexual men with the same education and experience. And nine out of 10 transgender workers report harassment or mistreatment on the job, or having to hide who they are to avoid it, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
Federal legislation to explicitly prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is sorely needed, and the president is committed to do what he can to support it. For almost 40 years, Congress has considered various pieces of legislation meant to address LGBT workplace equality, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed last fall by the Senate with strong bipartisan support. However, such legislation has yet to become law, and LGBT workers continue to go to work every day knowing that they do not have equal protection under the law.
In the absence of legislation, the president remains committed to giving LGBT Americans the same protections that other Americans already enjoy. On Monday he took an important step by using his executive authority to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment.
Opponents of these employment protections often hide behind the argument that it will increase compliance costs for businesses or hurt growth. This is simply untrue—if anything, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers will make our economy stronger. When managers choose employees based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or some other factor not related to workers’ productivity and ability to do the job, businesses are weakened and so is the economy. Overt discrimination is not just wrong, it also can hurt productivity and keep qualified workers from being matched to the best jobs for them. That’s why companies have found for decades that fair workplace policies are a cost-effective way to recruit, retain and motivate employees, including LGBT workers.
“LGBT-supportive policies and workplace climates are linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, and improved health outcomes among LGBT employees,” the Williams Institute reported in a May 2013 study. Other research finds that antidiscrimination laws boost wages for gay and lesbian workers. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a large majority of Fortune 500 companies and most of the top 50 federal government contractors support LGBT nondiscrimination policies. Similarly, a survey conducted by Small Business Majority found that six in 10 small business owners said that they believe that employment nondiscrimination laws improve their bottom line by helping to attract the best and brightest employees.
The president’s overall economic philosophy is that the American economy is strongest when we are playing with a full team. Over the past many years, we have created bold, lasting, comprehensive change that makes us stronger and better as a nation. Taking action to prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers is yet another important step in our march toward a more perfect and prosperous union.
Furman is chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Ms. Jarrett is senior adviser to the president.Copyright 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit djreprints.com