Report Finds “Pervasive” Anti-LGBT Workplace Discrimination in Utah
A report by the Williams Institute at the University of California together with the advocacy group Equality Utah found that LGBTs in Utah experience “pervasive and persistent” workplace discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The findings will be distributed among state lawmakers Wednesday in a push for an inclusive non-discrimination and housing policy.
From KUER Local News:
Forty-four percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Utahns and sixty-six percent of transgender people report that they had been fired, denied a job, or not promoted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The study from UCLA’S Williams Institute is based on an Equality Utah survey of about 1,000 LGBT Utahns. Cliff Rosky of the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law is one of the study’s co-authors. He says more than a third of respondents gave detailed descriptions of their experiences.
At least 30 percent of gay respondents and forty-five percent of transgendered workers reported being verbally harassed on a weekly basis in the past year.
Other reported experiences include being forcibly outed to fellow employees, getting paid less than fellow straight identifying workers, and some respondents even reported sexual assault in the workplace as a direct result of having their sexual orientation or gender identity known.
Advocates will use this report to help in their push for a state-wide workplace and housing non-discrimination law which this year is sponsored by Senator Ben McAdams (D).
This is the third attempt at passing an inclusive non-discrimination law, though chances may have been bolstered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently issuing an endorsement of housing and workplace protections for LGBTs.
However, advocates fear the Republican-led Legislature will dismiss the legitimacy of the study due to the data being self-reported and will once again attempt to block workplace protections while citing that such a law could lead to a glut of frivolous lawsuits, putting demands on the Labor Commission.
In the report, however, the Williams Institute calculated that the actual number of cases would be relatively low, estimating the Utah Labor Commission would receive somewhere in the range of 16–22 claims per year under the proposed legislation. This would seem to be supported by the fact that, since coming into effect in 2009, the inclusive Salt Lake City ordinance has yet to produce a single claim and where other similar ordinances have been enacted in the state (around ten), low figures have also been reported.
The report’s authors have also defended the legitimacy of their findings, saying that the results mirror those of larger and more rigorous scientific studies.
More from The Salt Lake Tribune:
Even though the online survey did not poll LGBT individuals at random, Rosky [a law professor at the University of Utah involved in the analysis] believes the sample is a reliable measure of the rate of discrimination in Utah. He and the other authors found that the findings are similar to the results in scientific surveys in other states and nationally. Also, the demographics of the respondents reflect the diversity found in Utah’s LGBT community.
“In Utah, like in other states, the problem of employment discrimination [against gay and transgender workers] is both pervasive and persistent,” Rosky said.
However, a Republican lawmaker told the paper that this is unlikely to sway legislators because, apparently even with LDS Church endorsement, inclusive non-discrimination policies still raise red flags for religious conservatives:
“If we look at this realistically, I don’t think it has a lot of chance,” said Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, Republican majority whip. “The Legislature is a little more conservative than it was a year ago.”
Niederhauser said he does not presently support a statewide law because of “fundamental questions” about how anti-discrimination protections could conflict with “natural rights,” such as marriage and children.
Senator Niederhauser did not elaborate how workplace protections would impact heterosexual marriages or child rearing, however.
Last year, a Salt Lake Tribune poll reportedly found that two-thirds of Utahns support a statewide inclusive non-discrimination law.