Across the U.S., low-wage LGBTQ workers face higher rates of poverty and discrimination than their heterosexual counterparts. LGBTQ people are more likely to face economic hardships, live at or below the poverty line, and receive Medicaid. Discrimination is directly tied to their economic insecurity: a quarter of LGBTQ people report experiencing sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, and a majority know someone or have firsthand experience of sexual harassment and violence because of their LGBTQ identity. Transgender people and LGBTQ people of color are especially vulnerable. Yet federal civil rights largely do not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, leaving LGBTQ workers without the power of the courts to guarantee their full equality under the law.
California is one of 20 states and the District of Columbia whose state laws protect LGBTQ workers. Yet even here, where LGBTQ people make up 4.6% of the population, they are more likely to be poor, unemployed, or lack adequate health insurance. And regional disparities divide the state, with LGBTQ people living in the rural areas facing higher rates of discrimination and poverty. They are the farmworkers, restaurant employees, and retail clerks whose stories are often overlooked, but who are most likely to be victims of harassment, prejudice or even assault without recourse.
Yet while the need for justice is high, the supply is low of attorneys across our state who are equipped to offer the specialized services that low-wage LGBTQ workers need. And with federal and state laws rapidly evolving on this issue, we need advocates for the LGBTQ community more than ever.
The Impact Fund is taking on this crisis facing low-wage LGBTQ workers who face employment and healthcare discrimination. Impact LGBTQ is our new service that seeks to expand the community of advocates for LGBTQ workers. Our litigation docket, education and training program, and national network of social justice advocates uniquely position us to strengthen the law and pursue justice and equality for LGBTQ people.
1. Educate. We are organizing Know Your Rights workshops at LGBTQ community centers and attorney CLE trainings in California’s Central Valley and Bay Area about state and federal law on employment and healthcare access discrimination.
2. Litigate. We are participating in impact and class cases as co-counsel and amicus counsel on behalf of LGBTQ plaintiffs who face discrimination.
3. Amplify. We are creating a network of trained attorneys for LGBTQ workers and providing resources around this cutting-edge area of law via our monthly blog series on our Practitioner and Social Justice Blogs, our Class Action Conference, and email communications to our network of direct legal services providers, plaintiffs’ attorneys, and social advocates.
4. Partner. We are engaging with key stakeholders in California to advance policies protecting LGBTQ workers.
For more information email our Law Fellow, David Nahmias.
This work is supported by a generous grant from Justice Catalyst