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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
One in four LGBT employees report discrimination in past five years
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One in four LGBT employees report discrimination in past five years

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On July 26, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a report summarizing academic studies and other documented evidence of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the negative impact such discrimination has on LGBT people. This report shows that LGBT people continue to frequently report discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

The report found that evidence of employment discrimination against LGBT people has been consistently documented over the past 40 years in both the private and public sectors. In particular, it focused on studies that have been conducted since 2005 and presented new data documenting discrimination from the 2008 General Social Survey (GSS), a national probability survey representative of the U.S. population.

Results from the 2008 GSS provide recent evidence of discrimination from one of very few national probability surveys that have collected data about sexual orientation and workplace discrimination. Among LGB respondents to the survey, 42% had experienced employment discrimination at some point in their lives, and 27% had experienced employment discrimination just during the five-year period prior to the survey.

GSS data further shows that employment discrimination is more common among LGB employees who are open about their sexual orientation in the workplace than among those who are not - 38% of employees who were out in the workplace had experienced discrimination in the five-year period prior to the survey, compared with 10% of those who were not out.

'This new data shows that it's still risky to come out about being LGBT in the workplace,' said study co-author Christy Mallory, legal fellow. 'Therefore, it's not surprising that the GSS data also shows that one-third of LGB employees are not open about their sexual orientation to anyone in the workplace.'

These results are consistent with findings from other recent studies that reveal a continuing pattern of employment discrimination against LGBT people. In several studies from 2010 and 2011 that report data on Transgender people separately, the rates of discrimination are even higher.

'Recent studies show that pervasiveness of discrimination against Transgender people in hiring has a devastating impact,' said Williams Institute Executive Director Brad Sears. 'The devastating results of this discrimination are confirmed by the high rates of poverty and unemployment documented by surveys of the Transgender community.'

Not only does research document the pervasiveness of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, but also the negative impacts of discrimination on LGBT people. Because of discrimination and fear of discrimination, many LGBT employees hide their identities, are paid less, and have fewer employment opportunities than non-LGBT employees.

'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,' said Ilan Meyer, Williams Institute 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.'

The full report may be found at www3.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/pdf/DiscriminationStudy-July2011.pdf

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