With the United States unemployment rate hovering at about 10%, lots of people are out of work. Unemployment is affecting all types of people, including both LGBT people and straight people. But it can be even more difficult for LGBT people to find work than others. Some companies practice non-discriminatory hiring, while others let an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity impact hiring decisions.

Such is the case at J. Crew stores in New York City, where transgender applicants have repeatedly been denied jobs. In 2008, advocacy group Make the Road New York did undercover testing of hiring practices at 24 retailers in New York City. J. Crew and American Eagle both repeatedly hired the non-transgender job applicants instead of the transgender applicants, despite the fact that the non-transgender applicants had weaker resumes.

The organization filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office, and American Eagle has agreed to change their hiring practices and training protocol to prevent discrimination. But J. Crew claims they’ve done nothing wrong. A company spokeswoman responded that J. Crew doesn’t discriminate based on gender identity — even though reality presents a different case.

Members of Make the Road New York protested J. Crew’s Prince Street store during a Fashion’s Night Out event on Friday night, and distributed information on transgender people in the workplace. Hopefully, J. Crew will respond to the protest and take action to prevent hiring discrimination. But what does the hiring discrimination evident at J. Crew mean for other transgender job-seekers?

J. Crew has a policy against discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Yet, this discrimination still occurs, made apparent by Make the Road New York’s undercover work in 2008. If transgender applicants are facing discrimination when applying for jobs at companies that have transgender-inclusive non-discrimination policies, what type of discrimination might they face in companies that allow discrimination based on gender identity?

J. Crew’s non-discrimination policy that covers discrimination based on gender identity and expression is a great first step. But companies need to do more to prevent discrimination. Employees should attend diversity trainings to ensure that they’re aware of LGBT issues. Companies should offer support to LGBT employees in the form of employee groups.

Until people are more aware of transgender issues and more accepting of transgender people, hiring managers at stores may hold prejudiced views against transgender applicants. Companies need to take accountability for these discriminatory views, and take action to prevent biases from influencing hiring decisions.

Send J. Crew a message today, urging them to work with Make the Road New York to ensure that nobody faces discrimination based on gender identity when they apply for a job with their company.

Photo credit: epicharmus

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