In the little time Samantha Mejia has been in Las Vegas, she applied for about 20 jobs and had six interviews. However, she said being transgender has slowed down the process of finding employment.
“If I look passable to them, I don’t have a problem,” Mejia said.
It’s when employers take a look at her identification and other documents that she starts having issues. She hasn’t updated all her information, including her gender marker or her previous name. It’s usually right after employers find out that she is trans that the application process ends.
She was able to find a little relief at the April 4 career fair at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, knowing the 20-plus booths were vetted and LGBT friendly.
Organizations in Southern Nevada are trying to provide more resources for LGBT individuals searching for work. The career fair, which the Center hosts twice a year, is just one of them.
Connie Shearer, a volunteer with the Center who organized the event, said she often receives comments from participants detailing their struggles with finding employment.
“It’s a bigger problem than people are willing to admit, especially for trans people,” she said. “This means something for them—to talk with a (job recruiter at the fair)—and be given the same dignity and respect a heteronormative person is given during an interview.”
Unemployment and workplace discrimination is still something the community faces nationally.
According to Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, a nonprofit that advocates for workplace equality for LGBT people, one in four LGBT employees have reported they’ve experienced discrimination at work. Almost 30 percent of transgender people (either who have held a job or applied for work) have reported not being hired or denied a promotion because of their gender identity.
Some states have laws to address these issues.
In Nevada, gender identity and expression are protected classes, which is supposed to prevent employers from discriminating.
“This also covers the application process when people are applying for jobs,” said Rosa Mendez, a spokeswoman with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission.
If a person feels they were discriminated against, they have 300 days from the time of the incident to bring a claim forward to the agency.
Mendez said even if the person isn’t completely sure, they should still reach out to NERC just in case. “Everything is confidential,” she added.
While there are mechanisms for people to file complaints, it’s still important for them to have access to employers who are accepting.
The center enlisted companies it recognizes as LGBT friendly, such as MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Metro Police Department, the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas and Nike Las Vegas. Each place set up booths and had human resources coordinators answering questions from applicants.
Among the booths was also Lambda Business Association, which is the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Southern Nevada.
Russ White, the executive director, is hoping to bring more economic development to the LGBT community and promote business ownership among them.
“Since there is a high-level of discrimination, especially against trans people, having (LGBT-owned businesses) could open the door to offer employment opportunity in the community,” he said.
It’s not just about finding work environments that accept LGBT people. It’s also about finding companies hiring at the moment—all the vendors at the April fair had job openings.
“We are specifically looking for LGBT companies who are actively hiring,” Shearer said. “We had quite a few people who got to set up interviews.”