Report: It’s Still Risky to Come Out At Work
The Williams Institute has released a report summarizing data from academic studies and other sources so as to get a picture of anti-LGBT workplace discrimination and the negative effects such discrimination has on LGBTs.
Unsurprisingly, the report finds four decades worth of evidence of discrimination against LGBTs in both the public and private sectors. The report, however, particularly focuses on studies that have been conducted since 2005. The report also presents new data on sexual orientation and gender identity-related workplace discrimination from the national 2008 General Social Survey (GSS).
The 2008 GSS provides a rare snapshot of discrimination as it is one of only a handful of national probability surveys that currently collects data on sexual orientation and discrimination in the workplace.
Among the data collected, 42% of LGB survey respondents said they had experienced employment discrimination at some point in their lives. A further 27% said they had experienced employment discrimination related to LGB identity in just the five years prior to the survey.
Further to this, GSS data demonstrates that levels of employment discrimination go up when LGB employees are open about their sexual orientation at work, with 38% of out-employees having faced discrimination as opposed to the 10% of those discriminated against who reported not being out.
“This new data shows that it’s still risky to come out about being LGBT in the workplace,” says study co-author Christy Mallory, Legal Fellow. “Therefore, it’s not surprising that the GSS data also show that one-third of LGB employees are not open about their sexual orientation to anyone at work.”
What about trans employees? The report highlights that several studies from 2010 and 2011 report rates of discrimination against transgender people are even higher. “Recent studies show … pervasiveness of discrimination against transgender people in the hiring process,”says Williams Institute Executive Director Brad Sears. “The devastating results of this discrimination are confirmed by the high rates of poverty and unemployment documented in the transgender community.”
The effects of such discrimination can be wide-reaching. The report highlights that LGBTs are less likely to be out at work which will obviously have an impact on interpersonal relationships. Many LGBTs, especially if open about their identity at work, also find themselves being paid less than their heterosexual identifying peers. They also have less employment opportunities than non-LGBTs.
“Research shows that LGBT employees who have experienced employment discrimination, or fear discrimination, have higher levels of psychological distress and health-related problems, less job satisfaction and higher rates of absenteeism, and are more likely to contemplate quitting than LGBT employees who have not experienced or do not fear discrimination,” says Ilan Meyer, Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy. “In contrast, supervisor, coworker, and organizational support for LGB employees was found to have a positive impact on employees in terms of job satisfaction, life satisfaction, and outness at work.”
It is easy to try to dismiss claims like these and say: well, if you don’t bring your sexuality or gender identity up in the work place, how would other people know? The notion, then, that it is LGBTs that are creating a problem for themselves by being open or, as the phrase goes, “shoving their personal lives in peoples’ faces.”
This, however, misses the point. Heterosexuality is everywhere. It is demonstrated by the ring upon your finger that indicates you are married, by the picture of your children or significant other that sits upon your desk, and even in the little things like mentioning your plans for the weekend. LGBTs wanting to be open about their home life and not be discriminated for it, then, is not something that should be seen as an extraordinary ask.
Things have got better. The data shows it. Yet change is slow, and LGBTs are still vulnerable. That is why Congress must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity can’t legally be used as a reason to make employment related decisions such as hiring, firing or advancement.
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