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

Erika Beras Nov 20, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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