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


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.

Pfizer said early data show its coronavirus vaccine is effective. So what’s next?

In the last few months, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have shared other details of the process including trial blueprints, the breakdown of the subjects and ethnicities and whether they’re taking money from the government. They’re being especially transparent in order to try to temper public skepticism about this vaccine process. The next big test, said Jennifer Miller at the Yale School of Medicine, comes when drug companies release their data, “so that other scientists who the public trust can go in, replicate findings, and communicate them to the public. And hopefully build appropriate trust in a vaccine.”

How is President-elect Joe Biden planning to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil it’s created?

On Nov. 9, President-Elect Joe Biden announced three co-chairs of his new COVID-19 task force. But what kind of effect might this task force have during this transition time, before Biden takes office? “The transition team can do a lot to amplify and reinforce the messages of scientists and public health experts,” said Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director for the Immunization Action Coalition. Moore said Biden’s COVID task force can also “start talking to state leaders and other experts about exactly what they need to equip them to roll out the vaccines effectively.”

What does slower retail sales growth in October mean for the economy?

It is a truism that we repeat time and again at Marketplace: As goes the U.S. consumer, so goes the U.S. economy. And recently, we’ve been seeing plenty of signs of weakness in the consumer economy. Retail sales were up three-tenths of a percent in October, but the gain was weaker than expected and much weaker than September’s. John Leer, an economist at Morning Consult, said a lack of new fiscal stimulus from Congress is dampening consumers’ appetite to spend. So is the pandemic.

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