Another Voice: LGBT workers need better protection against bias - The Buffalo News
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Another Voice: LGBT workers need better protection against bias

By Trevor G. Gates

Well-being and living the good life is a goal for which we all strive. While every person probably defines well-being differently, a significant factor in our well-being is having a job that we love and that reasonably supports the life that we want to live. Feeling secure in our employment is a contributing factor in well-being.

Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers rank lowest in well-being. As reported by Gallup Aug. 25, LGBT Americans rate lower on overall well-being than non-LGBT Americans. Among the most concerning findings are that LGBT Americans rate lowest on financial well-being. While financial well-being comprises many different issues about quality of living, being able to afford the basics and living free of financial worry, our ability to have the greatest sense of financial well-being is often linked to the work we do.

Discrimination at work continues to be a pressing issue for LGBT Americans. The Williams Institute estimates that up to 43 percent of LGBT people experience discrimination at work. According to the New York State Division of Human Rights, approximately 5 percent of its complaints were based upon sexual orientation identity discrimination.

New York State and Buffalo have relatively robust laws protecting LGBT workers from discrimination at work.

Though attitudes toward LGBT people are arguably improving across the United States, this Gallup result is disappointing. LGBT Americans deserve to live free of financial worry and to have the means for meeting their basic financial needs.

Contributing to this disappointing trend is the lack of comprehensive federal protections for LGBT workers. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect LGBT workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, has still not become law. Though President Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression for federal contractors, many LGBT Americans are still excluded from discrimination protections.

Being concerned about our financial well-being and our precarious position in our places of employment is undoubtedly connected. State- and citywide measures protecting LGBT workers, while encouraging, are simply a stopgap measure.

These protections are not enough. The time is now for passage of the comprehensive federal ENDA that protects all people regardless of where they live and work.

Trevor G. Gates is assistant professor of social work at SUNY Brockport.

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