COVID-19

Trans workers face bias, barriers that affect income as pandemic lingers

Erika Beras Nov 20, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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For those who do land jobs, 77% of trans individuals say they’ve taken active steps to avoid mistreatment at work. The Gender Spectrum Collection
COVID-19

Trans workers face bias, barriers that affect income as pandemic lingers

Erika Beras Nov 20, 2020
For those who do land jobs, 77% of trans individuals say they’ve taken active steps to avoid mistreatment at work. The Gender Spectrum Collection
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Before the pandemic, if you look by demographic, Black transgender employees faced the most economic challenges of any group of workers in the U.S.

The pandemic has piled on new challenges, but added federal protections and the increase in virtual interactions this year may be helping.

Applying for and interviewing for a job always involves a lot of scrutiny: your qualifications, how you present, how you sound, how you look. That scrutiny is still there during the pandemic, but remote screening seems to eliminate some bias.

“With the number of companies now doing phone screenings as a first line of entry, it’s actually given trans folks some more opportunity because they’re being assessed by the quality of their candidacy,” said Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director for the National Black Justice Coalition.

It’s hard to get past that hurdle though. Jody Herman, a scholar of public policy at the UCLA School of Law, said her research shows that compared to the U.S. population at large, trans people are the most likely to be unemployed or living in poverty.

“And these issues are particularly worse for Black respondents and other respondents who are people of color,” Herman said.

For those who do land jobs, 77% of trans individuals say they’ve taken active steps to avoid mistreatment at work.

Hundreds of companies do have discrimination policies that cover trans employees, and some have gender-neutral dress codes and bathrooms.

But that’s often not enough, especially in the pandemic. Now bosses and colleagues are all peering into each other’s personal lives through computer screens.

“Especially for individuals who are not out about their identities, we’re seeing that from remote work that this might be a source of anxiety,” said Christian Thoroughgood, professor of psychology and human resources at Villanova University.

He said this summer’s Supreme Court ruling clarifying that the Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination may push more managers to adopt and enforce more local policies protecting trans employees.

But, he adds, because the pandemic is ongoing, it’s hard to do research on the impact of the ruling, and it’s hard for workplaces to implement new policies.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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