Report: Alaska Falls Short on Curbing LBGT Discrimination In The Workplace

An Alaska Pride flag. The image is based on a double-faced eagle design from Alaska before Russian contact. (Creative Commons photo by Mel Green)
An Alaska Pride flag. The image is based on a double-faced eagle design from Alaska before Russian contact. (Creative Commons photo by Mel Green)

Last Wednesday, the University of California, Los Angeles, published a report on employment discrimination in Alaska based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Alaska is home to more than 19,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults, according to a Gallup poll.

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The report, published by UCLA’s Williams Institute found that 17 out of Alaska’s 25 largest employers have corporate policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. At least 11 of them list gender identity as a protected class. Some of these employers include Providence Health and Services, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.

The report also cites a 2012 web survey on LGBT discrimination in Anchorage.

According to the Anchorage survey, 44 percent of the respondents had experienced harassment and nearly a fifth had been turned down for a job or promotion. The survey found that transgender people are more at risk for housing and employment discrimination.

The report found that straight male workers’ income was 30 percent higher than gay male workers.

Christy Mallory co-authored the report, and says it took about a month to compile.

The report predicts that if non-discrimination laws were expanded, approximately six complaints of sexual orientation or gender identity employment discrimination would be filed annually in Alaska.

“So, six complaints is pretty low,” Mallory said, “that’s mostly because there’s a smaller population in Alaska than many other states.”

Mallory says their reports focus on the 28 states that don’t offer LGBT legal protection in the workplace.

In a 2011 poll, nearly 80 percent of Alaskans said Congress should pass a law to prohibit LGBT employment discrimination.

In 2002, Gov. Tony Knowles issued an administrative order protecting state employees from employment discrimination and harassment. There are no restrictions on the private sector.

Neither the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights or the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission processes discrimination claims based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But the Williams Institute says that this discrimination does take place, citing legislative testimony.

Juneau Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl is drafting a city ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the private sector, including public accommodations and housing. He says he decided to work on the ordinance after local residents discussed the issue with him.

“The recent recognition of marriage equality in all 50 states is a wonderful step forward,” Kiehl said,” but some of these folks were particularly worried that a person could get married on Saturday and show off the photos and be fired on Monday.”

Kiehl thinks broader discrimination protection would be better for everyone involved.

“Those items being included would help us to make Juneau both a welcoming and prosperous community, as folks can live and work here based on their contributions.”

Juneau Rep. Cathy Munoz, a Republican, is sponsoring a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, requiring the state commission to handle those complaints. Similar bills have failed twice before.