The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) continues to advocate for the implementation of equal employment policies in Buncombe County. Today, CSE released a white paper titled “Policy Recommendations for the Fair and Equitable Treatment of Buncombe County LGBT Employees.” The full paper is available for download with the Executive Summary below:
Under current law, an individual can be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). LGBT people experience high rates of discrimination and harassment in the work place, with 37 percent of LGB and 90 percent of transgender people reporting such experiences in the general workforce. One in five public sector LGBT employees reports workplace discrimination. Additionally, LGBT employees experience inequity in compensation, with LGBT public employees earning between 8 and 29 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts.
Data suggests that among Buncombe County’s 1421 employees, approximately 71 individuals, or 5 percent, are LGBT. If national trends hold locally, these employees experience inequity in compensation and approximately 14 have directly experienced workplace discrimination.
But the impact goes further. A workplace environment that includes inequity and discrimination (or the reasonable fear of these experiences) impedes the recruitment and retention of a talented workforce; negatively impacts employee performance, job satisfaction and morale; and increases absenteeism. Beyond these immediate effects on LGBT employees, such a climate also impacts employers’ ability to maintain a productive work environment and provide high quality services. In a public sector setting, these negative metrics result in the inefficient use of taxpayers’ funds.
Additionally, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity has been found to be unconstitutional, according to a growing body of state and federal case law. Employers that discriminate against LGBT employees risk legal action.
To reduce the incidence of workplace discrimination and to treat LGBT employees with parity, growing numbers of public and private employers have adopted inclusive non-discrimination policies and offer equal compensation and benefits to LGBT employees. To date, fifteen municipalities in North Carolina and an increasing number of area employers have an inclusive non-discrimination policy and/or provide equal benefits to LGBT employees. This growing trend in employment practices enjoys broad public support; according to recent polling, 73% of likely 2012 voters support workplace protections for LGBT people.
Buncombe County’s current policies negatively impact LGBT employees, the workplace environment and, through the inefficient use of public funds, taxpayers. Current policies also make Buncombe County unnecessarily vulnerable to legal action and are discordant with the stated purpose of the county’s proposed Personnel Ordinance:
“The purpose of this Personnel Ordinance is to establish a personnel system that shall promote a fair and effective means of employee recruitment and selection; develop and maintain an effective and responsible work force; promote understanding, cooperation, equal treatment, and efficiency; and provide the means for removal of unsatisfactory employees.”
Buncombe County can ensure the fair and equitable treatment of all employees by: (1) amending its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity; and (2) providing equal benefits to LGBT employees. These two policy recommendations are legal under current North Carolina law. They are independent of each other and can be enacted separately.
“Documented Evidence of Employment Discrimination & Its Effects on LGBT People” by Brad Sears and Christy Mallory, July 2011.
“Gay and Transgender People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment:
Data Demonstrate Need for Federal Law” by Crosby Burns and Jeff Krehely, June 2011.