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Are Americans Becoming More Accepting of LGBT Employment Rights?

By Dan Atkerson on October 24, 2016

Same Sex Couple (m)Despite large and ongoing challenges that still exist for the LGBT community, numbers are showing that the majority of Americans now support additional LBGT employment rights. A Harris Poll survey reported that 67 percent of Americans want equal employment, housing and public accommodations protections for gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender Americans.

This is a sign of a changing tide, especially since young people are the most adamant supporters of change. 72 percent of millennials say it should be illegal to fire someone on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

As recently as 2013, only half of Americans supported these changes. The numbers especially show improving attitudes towards transgendered employees. 75 percent of respondents say that employers should call transgender employees by their preferred pronoun, for instance. That is a stark contrast to attitudes even just a few years ago.

Will Improving Attitudes Translate into New LBGT Employment Rights?

LGBT employees still face many challenges with discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Opportunity Commission said that the number of harassment cases against LGBT employees has been increasing. There was a jump of 28 percent in the number of reported cases in 2015.

Another challenge is that many Americans have the misconception that their LGBT colleagues already have many of these legal protections. While Texas and Federal laws do provide some support for victims of discrimination, there is still a lot of room for progress. For example, sexual orientation is still not an official protected class like race or gender. This means that while an employee can now be married in any U.S. state, posting about that marriage on social media could still jeopardize their career. LBGT employees will not truly see the benefits of changing attitudes unless they translate into actual concrete changes.

Dan A. Atkerson is a Dallas employment lawyer with experience fighting for victims of sexual orientation discrimination, gender identify discrimination and other forms of workplace injustice.

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