LGBT Employees Still Face Discrimination
Despite recent strides toward equal treatment, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) employees continue frequently to report discrimination and harassment in the workplace, says new research.
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law Tuesday released a report summarizing academic studies and other documented evidence of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Among the findings: Results from the federally-funded General Social Survey, considered the gold standard on social behavior and one of the few surveys that collects data about sexual orientation and workplace discrimination, show that 42 percent of LGB respondents had experienced employment discrimination at some point in their lives. Just over a quarter (27 percent) had experienced employment discrimination in the five-year period prior to the survey. Seven percent had lost a job as a result.
Employment discrimination is more common among LGB employees who are open about their sexual orientation in the workplace than those who aren’t: 38 percent of employees who are out had experienced discrimination in the five years prior to the survey, compared with just 10 percent of those who are not out. Just a quarter of LGB employees are open about their sexual orientation to all of their co-workers; a third aren’t open at all to co-workers.
"This new data shows that it’s still risky to come out about being LGBT in the workplace," said study co-author Christy Mallory.
The news comes as the first time in 37 years of the GSS, Americans in opposition to same sex relations were in the minority. In 1991, three in four Americans said homosexual relations are always wrong. By the end of the decade, the number had dropped to three in five. In the most recent survey, 46 percent of Americans said same-sex relations are "always wrong."
Researchers say the Williams Institute findings on workplace discrimination are consistent with other 2010 and 2011 studies, which show a continuing pattern of discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees.
The Williams Institute analysis also shows that LGBT employees hide their identities and have fewer job opportunities than nonLGBT employees. They’re also paid less: Census data analysis shows that in nearly every state, men in same-sex relationships earn less than men in heterosexual marriages.
Perhaps not surprisingly, LGBT employees who have experienced employment discrimination—or who fear it—have higher levels of psychological distress and health-related problems, less job satisfaction, and higher rates of absenteeism. They’re also more likely to think about quitting.
One bright spot: Supervisor, co-worker, and organizational support “was found to have a positive impact on employees in terms of job satisfaction, life satisfaction, and outness at work," said Ilan Meyer, Ph.D., a Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy.
Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.