The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Badgett Coauthors Study on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Lee Badgett

Professor Lee Badgett of the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy and the Department of Economics is coauthor of a new study that examines sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination charges filed with the federal government.

The report, “Evidence from the Frontlines on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination,” finds that a 2013 extension of anti-discrimination coverage for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has greatly expanded protections for LGBT people, especially for residents of the twenty-eight US states that do not have SOGI anti-discrimination laws.

It was released by the UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity and coauthored by Steven Boutcher of the UMass Amherst Institute for Social Science Research and Amanda Baumle of the University of Houston.

The researchers examined data from more than 9,100 SOGI discrimination charges filed with the EEOC or a state agency between 2013-16. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently ban all SOGI discrimination, and one state—Wisconsin—bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Twenty-four of the other states have at least one city or county that offer some form of protection, but for residents without these local and state-based protections, the EEOC provides the only available recourse for those facing SOGI discrimination.

“We find the biggest increase in charges filed over time are in states without a SOGI nondiscrimination law, since LGBT people had no way to challenge potential discrimination before 2013,” said Badgett. “Surprisingly, we also see an increase in charges filed in states with SOGI protections, possibly because the EEOC policy makes it safer or more visible as an option.”

The researchers also found that the rate of filing in states without SOGI protection is about 23 percent lower than in the states with SOGI protections, which suggests that SOGI discrimination is underreported in the states without protections.

Charges were filed by people across the range of demographic categories, but one notable difference was that 43 percent of charging parties were African-American, who account for just 12 percent of the U.S. labor force. A disproportionate number of sexual orientation discrimination charges were filed by men and by black individuals, but for gender identity charges a disproportionate number were filed by women and white individuals.

— From the UMass Amherst News Office

About the School of Public Policy: Established in 2016, the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy is a hub for research and teaching, preparing students for leadership in public service. The program’s focuses include social change and public policy related to science and technology.

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