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 DCjobs.com.
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.