Badgett testifies before Senate panel in favor of employment non-discrimination act

Economics professor M.V. Lee Badgett, director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 12 that Congress should pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because lesbian, gay and bisexual people are nearly as likely to file discrimination complaints as those already protected by federal anti-bias laws.

Badgett was one of five witnesses who provided the Senate committee with testimony related to the proposed bill, which would ban discrimination in hiring and other employment decisions based on sexual orientation and gender identity. During her testimony, Badgett cited multiple reports and statistics showing that “sexual orientation discrimination results in economic harm to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people, reducing their earnings by thousands of dollars.”

She pointed to a 2008 study examining workplace discrimination complaints filed between 1999 and 2007 in the 20 states that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the study, Badgett and her co-authors showed that 4.7 per 10,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in those states filed workplace discrimination complaints, while 5.4 per 10,000 women and 6.5 per 10,000 people of color filed complaints.

“In other words, LGB people are about as likely to file discrimination complaints as are people in groups that are currently protected against discrimination under federal law,” Badgett said.

She also countered a common critique of nondiscrimination legislation by arguing that policies prohibiting workplace bias can actually benefit the company. When employees feel more comfortable and valued at work, Badgett said, they are more likely to be fully invested in their jobs, will generally have less anxiety and therefore will be more productive. In fact, 86 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

Badgett also serves as research director at the Williams Institute of Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA. She was an expert witness during California’s Proposition 8 trial, which examined the constitutionality of that state’s 2008 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage.

Photo: Badgett and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon