Hard work is not enough for LGBT employees to get ahead

By Kimberly Lord - 06.07.2013

As June rolls around this year, we have much to be excited about with regard to advances for LGBT individuals across the U.S.  In light of these advances, it’s also important to look at the hurdles and inequities that continue in our workplaces.

A coalition of leading LGBT organizations, policy experts and business advocates have released a report documenting these challenges: A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates reminds us of five key areas where American businesses need to create equity and the need for federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers.


  • Lack of nondiscrimination protections. No federal law and only a minority of states provide explicit protections for LGBT workers, even though protections exist for other workers based on factors such as race, national origin, religion, ethnicity, and disability. Progress has perhaps been impeded by the fact that 89% of Americans mistakenly believe that it is already illegal under federal law to fire someone simply for being LGBT.
  • Family and medical leave. LGBT workers are denied equal access to unpaid leave to provide care for a same-sex spouse or partner. Transgender workers are often denied medical leave for transition-related medical care.
  • Family health benefits. An employer that extends family health benefits to married opposite-sex couples can legally deny that same coverage to married and unmarried same-sex couples. When LGBT workers do receive these benefits, middle-income families pay an estimated $3,200 in extra taxes on them, although heterosexual workers get the same benefits tax-free.
  • Spousal retirement benefits. LGBT workers are systematically denied Social Security spousal benefits designed to protect workers’ families during their retirement years. This costs retired same-sex couples up to $14,484 per year, and a surviving same-sex widow or widower up to $28,968 per year. Same-sex partners also may also be denied pension survivor benefits.
  • Death and disability benefits. If an LGBT worker dies or becomes disabled, the worker’s same-sex spouse-and in some cases, his or her children-will be denied Social Security disability and survivor benefits, costing a surviving spouse with two children as much as $29,520 in annual benefits.