THE BLOG

LGBT Latinos Face a Broken Bargain in the American Workforce

11/14/2013 10:50 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • Tico Almeida President, Freedom to Work
  • David M. Pérez Director of Development and manages the Equality Project for the League of United Latin American Citizens

According to a new report released today -- A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Latinos are among the most disadvantaged workers in America. This groundbreaking report by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and a broad spectrum of civil rights organizations finds that LGBT Latinos face extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and poverty due to discrimination coupled with a lack of workplace protections, unequal job benefits and taxation, and unsafe, under-resourced U.S. schools.

Contrary to some stereotypes about gays and lesbians, LGBT workers are more racially diverse than the general population and also more likely to be raising children. In a 2012 Gallup poll, one in three LGBT respondents (33 percent) identified themselves as people of color, compared to 27 percent of non-LGBT respondents. In addition, data from the 2010 Census show that LGBT people of color are more likely to be raising children than white LGBT people; fully one-third of Latinos in same-sex couples are raising children.

Unfortunately, these Latino families face significant hurdles to finding good jobs that provide fair wages and benefits. A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers presents the latest data showing troubling workplace outcomes for LGBT Latino workers:

• LGBT Latinos are at high risk of becoming homeless. An estimated 20-40 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. identify as LGBT or believe they may be LGBT. One study found that among homeless youth who identify as gay or lesbian, 26 percent were Latino.

• LGBT Latinos are at significant risk of being unemployed. LGBT people of color have higher rates of unemployment compared to non-LGBT people of color. A 2012 Gallup poll found that 14 percent of LGBT Latinos were unemployed compared to 11 percent of non-LGBT Latinos.

• LGBT Latinos at significant risk of poverty. Research shows that LGBT people of color are at a much higher risk of poverty than non-LGBT people. For example, Latino transgender people are five times as likely to live in extreme poverty compared to the general Latino population (28 percent vs. 5 percent).

• LGBT Latinos Less Likely to Have Health Insurance. A 2012 Gallup poll found that only 61 percent of Latino LGBT workers had health insurance, which compares to 69 percent of Latino people in the general population.

• LGBT Latinos Less Likely to be Out at Work. A 2009 survey found that only 18 percent of Latino LGBT workers were out to everyone at work compared to 29 percent of non-Latino white LGBT workers.

We must fix this broken bargain for LGBT Latinos to help ensure that they are treated fairly no matter where they work. The Broken Bargain report details a series of policy recommendations, and thankfully, the U.S. Senate took a first step last week by passing the long overdue Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The bill had an impressive bipartisan vote of 64-32, and if it were allowed to pass the House of Representatives, it would create federal LGBT workplace protections parallel to the protections against anti-Latino discrimination that have existed for nearly 50 years.

While we wait on Congress to act, President Obama has the legal authority to sign an executive order requiring the companies that profit from federal contracts to adopt LGBT workplace protections. Similar executive orders already protect Latino workers from discrimination. LGBT contractors deserve the same protections, and we urge President Obama to take action.

As we push forward to have ENDA signed into law, it's particularly important to note the strong leadership from national Latino organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and National Council of La Raza. We realize that ENDA would not completely level the playing field for LGBT Latino workers. However, ENDA would go a long way to ensure that LGBT workers have the protections they need from harassment and discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.