Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

LGBT Worker Protections Missing in Mississippi and Most States

Workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is common in Mississippi, according to a report released by the Williams Institute of UCLA Law School. More than a third of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers in that state report being harassed at work, while a quarter say they have experienced discrimination.

Mistreatment takes many forms -- from name calling to wrongful termination -- and for the more than 40,000 LGBT workers in Mississippi, it can make work a nightmare. The state has no protections in place for these workers, which is more common than not. Less than half of American states have employment non-discrimination laws covering both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Surveying the States

Laws that protect all LGBT workers (i.e., laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity) exist in the following places:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Three states prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation but do not protect gender identity:

  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Wisconsin

And the rest have yet to act. This, despite the fact that many people seem to agree that there is a need for such protection, including the federal government.

Will the Law Follow Public Opinion?

The Williams Institute reports that, in Mississippi, 81 percent of the people perceive the state as unfriendly to LGBT people. In 2011, three quarters of Mississippians polled supported a federal law to prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, indicating that Mississippians want the state to be more welcoming to all types.

This appears to be true nationally. A 2006 national poll found that nearly three quarters of non-LGBT respondents consider a complete non-discrimination policy as a factor in deciding where to work.

The Cost of No Anti-Discrimination Policy

Of course, public institutions, like state universities, and private corporations may choose to institute anti-discriminatory policies. And many have.

Many of the largest private sector employers in Mississippi have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, including Nissan, Toyota, and several casinos and hotels.

Apart from limiting the talent pool available to employers, discrimination in the workplace can have a negative economic impact on businesses. Non-discrimination policies allow corporations to bid for lucrative government contracts that are barred to companies who have not made a similar commitment to protect all workers.

Related Resources: