November 4, 2015 at 1:35 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Sting reveals anti-trans job bias
D.C. Office of Human Rights, OHR, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade, discrimination, bias

‘Statistical and anecdotal evidence tells us transgender people are experiencing employment discrimination at very high rates,’ said OHR Director Monica Palacio. (Photo courtesy of OHR)

The D.C. Office of Human Rights on Tuesday released the findings of a six-month study that showed 48 percent of employers appeared to prefer at least one less-qualified job applicant over a better-qualified applicant perceived as being transgender.

The study involved sending 200 “test” cover letters and resumes prepared by OHR to 38 employers that advertised 50 individual job openings, according to an OHR statement.

The statement says OHR sent two sets of cover letters and resumes to each of the advertised job openings from “applicants” who appeared to be transgender and another two sets from applicants who were portrayed as non-transgender.

“The study is the first known government-conducted resume testing to focus on discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming job applicants,” OHR said in its statement.

Details of the study along with its findings are described in a 28-page OHR report released on Tuesday entitled, “Qualified and Transgender: A Report on Results of Resume Testing for Employment Discrimination Based on Gender Identity.”

The report includes these findings:

Forty-eight percent of employers appeared to prefer “at least one less-qualified applicant perceived as cisgender (individuals who do not identify as transgender or gender non-conforming) over a more qualified applicant perceived as transgender.”

Thirty-three percent of employers offered interviews to one or more less-qualified applicants perceived as cisgender while they did not offer an interview to at least one of the better-qualified applicants perceived as transgender.

An applicant portrayed by OHR as a transgender man with work experience at a transgender advocacy organization “experienced the highest individual rate of discrimination” by employers responding to the test applications.

The restaurant industry had the “highest percentage of responses perceived as discriminatory among the employment sectors tested, although the sample numbers are low and therefore not conclusive.”

The OHR spokesperson Elliot Imse said OHR will initiate “enforcement action” against four different employers as a result of the findings of the study. But he said that because there are no real individuals who were victims of discrimination in the test cases the enforcement action will be limited to an investigation that can result only in an “advisory” determination.

Imse said OHR cannot release the names of the employers being investigated “because they must remain confidential during the investigation process.”

OHR Director Monica Palacio said in the OHR statement that the office initiated the study in response to ongoing reports of job related discrimination faced by transgender people in D.C. and across the country.

“Statistical and anecdotal evidence tells us transgender and gender non-conforming people are experiencing employment discrimination at very high rates, and this testing project confirms that unfortunate truth,” Palacio said.

“It is vital that government, the business community and advocates work together to end this chronic injustice affecting the transgender and gender non-conforming communities, both in the District and nationwide,” she said.

The OHR report outlining the findings of the study says all of the fake transgender and non-trans applicants created for the study met the minimum requirements for the job positions advertised by the employers. The report says the study methodology classified the trans applicants as “tester applicants” and the non-trans applicants as being part of a “control” group.

“The tester applicants were constructed to be more qualified than the control applicants by having higher GPAs (grade point average in college), more work experience, and having attended colleges that were ranked higher than or equal to the colleges the control applicants attended,” the report says.

“Therefore, when a control applicant received a callback but a tester applicant did not, it could be inferred that discrimination based on gender identity was likely,” the report says.

It says that although the test applicants didn’t explicitly identify themselves as transgender they included in their resumes listings of past jobs or past volunteer positions with transgender advocacy organizations, including the D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality. Some of the test applicants also conveyed the message that they were transgender by listing their former name of the opposite gender in their list of previous jobs prior to transitioning, the report says.

The categories of employers tested in the study were listed as universities, grocery, hotels, retail, restaurants, and “administrative” jobs listed in the online job listing site

The report says that of the 50 job positions targeted in the study, responses were received from employers for 21 of the positions (42 percent). Of the 21 responses, 10 (48 percent) appeared to favor a less-qualified cisgender applicant over at least one trans applicant.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • lauren

    So the majority 52% does not care. That’s good!

    • Patricia Smiley

      definitely progress, but that’s still a huge margin when you’re looking for work.

    • Pacifica

      Yes but 100% don’t care if you’re cis. 48% being discriminatory is a disgusting figure. A trans person having to apply to twice as many jobs to have the same options is not good.

    • JessicaSideways

      If only 100% cared about what my qualifications are, not what toys I was forced to play with as a kid.

    • DerfelaCadarn

      Um, 52% in academia isn’t even a D. That’s not good!

    • CKimber, Patheos trans lunatic

      But wait until the actual interviews, when many of the 52% will experience gender dissonance.

  • Katrina Rose

    Can we presume HRC was in the 48%?

    • That would be a silly presumption.

      • shmaesh

        No it wouldn’t.

        • Cassie Devereaux

          The HRC has a lot of work to do to build good will with the trans communities.

          • JessicaSideways

            … Such as?

        • We’ll thanks for the invalidation…. And for making my point real.

          • shmaesh

            HRC’s employee structure indicates they are as prejudiced against trans people (and basically anyone who’s not a cis white dude) as any other average employer is. My apologies for using facts to invalidate your opinion.


          • Ahh.. I made a mistake thinking the OP was talking about the percentage that was not doing this. Whoops.

            We’re in agreement.

          • shmaesh

            Well! That’s a lovely surprise!

          • What? That a I made a mistake? Yeah, I know.. it’s super rare, and you got to be apart of it. Look for it again after Halleys Comet returns! :O


  • Danielle Ashworth

    Why is there such an issue in the US over a person self identifying as TS? People are people no matter who they were or are now and it seems like there is a lot less of an issue to the north and in several other countries. I have one friend down there who is totally stealth as to what they are now.
    But reading this article it sounds like if you’ve had a life change you need to put it into your resume/cover letter which is totally wrong and biased towards skilled people.
    I am so glad I am Canadian and have had none (well there was one with a supervisor of the store I worked at and took her and the store manager and the company to human rights. the company was pretty much the largest international corporation in the world and won) change a sexual discrimination policy in Canada too with this company.
    To tell the truth in the US its a crazy country and when they were in need in 2011 Canada stepped up to the plate and helped them

  • Ally

    The tragedy is a combination of age-discrimination and being transgender. (for those late-in-life with senior skill-sets). Unless we acquire some fictional mind-reader skill, we’ll never be able to prosecute the obvious perpetrators. Until then, they would rather not ‘deal’ with us.

  • v2787

    None of this comes as a surprise to any openly trans person who’s ever looked for work.

  • Why not correcting the title: It’s not about “Sting” (the well-known singer), it’s about Testing.

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