Study finds Texas ENDA would protect more than 400,000 LGBT workers

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

If the Texas Legislature passes a bill to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the upcoming session filed by state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, the law would protect more than 400,000 workers, a new study finds.

The Williams Institute, a prominent LGBT think tank at UCLA, estimated that 431,095 LGBT workers live in Texas, according to U.S. Census data.

Research found adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected categories would have a minimal impact on state agencies and the budget, estimating that the changes would result in 203 more complaints a year. The number of additional complaints came from applying the national average of 4.7 complaints alleging discrimination in the workplace for every 10,000 LGBT workers to Texas’ number of LGBT workers.

The institute focused on research from 2008 that found 37 percent of gay and lesbian respondents to a survey had experienced workplace harassment and 12 percent were fired because of their sexual orientation. A 2010 survey of transgender people revealed that 78 percent experienced mistreatment at work.

“Data from other states show that the LGBT population files discrimination complaints at a rate similar to other protected groups, such as, women and people of color filing on the basis of sex or race,” co-author Christy Mallory, Reid Rasmussen Fellow of Law & Policy, said in a release. “However, the absolute number of complaints we expect to see from LGBT people is very low, because the LGBT population is small compared to other protected populations.”

The cost of reviewing and investigating the complaints by administrators would be low, costing $267,500–$334,400 in the first year and $248,600–$310,800 each subsequent year.

“We expect that enforcing these additional complaints will only cost the state approximately $300,000 in the first year; and the expenses will drop in the following years,” said co-author M.V. Lee Badgett, Williams Institute research director. “Although there is some administrative cost associated with enforcing these laws, they can also have positive effects on businesses and the state.”

 

—  Anna Waugh

Villarreal again files Texas ENDA. Now where’s that City Council resolution?

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, has again filed a bill that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas.

“An overwhelming majority of Texans believe that everyone should be judged on their capabilities and job performance,” Villarreal said in a press release sent out Monday by Equality Texas announcing the introduction of HB 238. “Hardworking, high-performing employees should not be fired just because they are gay or transgender.”

According to a 2010 Equality Texas poll, more than 70 percent of Texas voters support banning employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Villarreal has carried identical legislation in previous sessions, but the bill has never made it out of committee. Frankly, given a solid Republican majority in the House, its chances aren’t a whole hell of a lot better in 2013 — despite those poll numbers as well as an unprecedented recent endorsement from GOP Dallas Sen. John Carona.

And that’s extremely unfortunate, because the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is also unlikely to pass the new Congress, meaning at least two more years during which LGBT Texans can be legally fired. Just. For. Being. LGBT.

“Most people incorrectly assume that it is already against the law to fire someone solely because they are gay or transgender,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said in the group’s release. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is no statewide law in Texas to prohibit someone from being unfairly fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance. HB 238 would help protect hardworking Texans from being unfairly fired.”

Three cities in Texas — Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth — prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, those city ordinances are widely regarded as toothless because they lack the force of state or federal law.

A few years ago, Fort Worth passed a resolution in support of a statewide ban on anti-LGBT job discrimination. The Dallas City Council has failed to do so — despite the fact that Mayor Mike Rawlings is purported to have been working on this issue — costing the city points in the Human Rights Campaign’s recent Municipal Equality Index.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Rep. Mike Villarreal talks about Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act


Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio introduced the Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act in the Texas House of Representatives (HB655).

The bill will be heard by the Small Business and Economic Development Committee. Most LGBT-related bills are sent to the state affairs committee where they promptly die.

If enacted, this Texas employment non-discrimination law would prohibit employers, employment agencies and unions from using an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression as the basis for employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotions, compensation or from subjecting an individual to different standards or treatment based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Religious organizations are exempt from the law and would be free to continue discriminating. No preferential treatments or quotas would be established in hiring.

According to a poll conducted for Equality Texas by Glengariff Group, 75 percent of Texas would support a law that made it illegal to deny housing or fire someone because of their sexual orientation. That same poll found that 69 percent of Texans would support a law that similarly protected transgender people.

—  David Taffet

Activists gather from across Texas to lobby for anti-bullying legislation and more

David and Amy Truong (standing, center) lobbied with 350 LGBT activists and allies from across the state in Austin

About 350 people gathered to lobby for anti-bullying legislation among other bills that would benefit the LGBT community. Among those at lobby day were David and Amy Truong, parents of Asher Brown who committed suicide in September, and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns.

The day was organized by Equality Texas along with 58 partner organizations from across the state. From Dallas Youth First Texas, Resource Center Dallas, Hope for Peace and Justice and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce were among the participating organizations.

Not all of the partners were specifically LGBT groups. Atticus Circle is a group founded in 2004 as a place for straight allies to organize for LGBT family rights.

First United Methodist Church on Lavaca Street across from the Capitol hosted Equality Texas for breakfast, a lobby day training session and lunch.

At a press conference on the Capitol steps, Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston announced that he refiled his anti-bullying bill as Asher’s Law. State Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio spoke about his Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

The Truongs spoke about stopping bullying. Amy Truong said that no parent should go to work in the morning and come home to find police tape around their house. Along with Burns, they met legislators who are key to moving the bills through the House and Senate.

—  David Taffet