Under current law it is illegal in Texas to discriminate in employment based on a person’s race, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability. It remains legal to discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. There is no federal law prohibiting employment discrimination against the LGBT community (although, according to a poll by the Center for American Progress, 9 out of 10 American voters erroneously believe that federal law does provide LGBT people employment protections).
HB 238 would allow the Texas Workforce Commission's Civil Rights Division (TWC CRD) to investigate claims of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in the same way that it investigates claims of discrimination based on the other protected attributes. The TWC CRD allows individuals who believe they have experienced prohibited employment discrimination to file a complaint in person in Austin, over the phone, or via notarized form. If the complaint warrants investigation the TWC CRD pursues it further. The Legislative Budget Board (an agency of the State of Texas) estimates that if employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression was prohibited that the TWC CRD would need to investigate 474 credible cases a year.
There is a great deal of evidence that employment discrimination is pervasive and widespread in Texas:
- Men in same-sex relationships in Texas make 9% less on average than their straight married counterparts according to information from the Census Bureau,
- Households in Texas headed by two women make one average 11% less than households headed by a man and a woman according to information from the Census Bureau,
- In a 2010 survey 26% of transgender Texans reported losing a job because of their gender identity or expression.
- 76% of registered voters in Texas said they support ending employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation,
- 70% said they supported ending employment and housing discrimination for transgender citizens.