A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School shows that cisgender bisexual employees are less likely to be open about their sexual orientation at work than cisgender gay and lesbian employees. Only about one-third (36%) of cisgender bisexual employees were out to their supervisors, compared to three-quarters (75%) of cisgender gay men and lesbians.
While bisexual employees overall are significantly less likely to report experiencing discrimination and harassment in the workplace than gay and lesbian employees, that difference disappears when looking at the experiences of employees who are open about being LGB at work.
One-quarter (24%) of all cisgender bisexual employees reported experiencing discrimination at work—including being fired or not hired—because of their sexual orientation, compared to 34% of all cisgender gay and lesbian workers. However, when looking at “out” LGB employees, similar proportions of bisexual employees (33%) and gay and lesbian employees (37%) reported experiencing workplace discrimination.
Experiences of discrimination and harassment among out workers differ by gender. Sixty percent of cisgender bisexual men who are out at work experienced verbal, physical, or sexual harassment compared to 38% of out bisexual women and 33% of out lesbians. Out gay men experienced similar levels of harassment as out bisexual men.
Using survey data collected in May 2021 from 935 LGBT adults in the workforce, researchers examined the workplace experiences of cisgender bisexual adults compared to cisgender lesbians and gay men. Workplace experiences of transgender employees were analyzed in a 2021 report.
“The higher rates of concealing their sexual minority identity among bisexual employees may mask the extent to which they experience unfair treatment based on their sexual orientation,” said lead author Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “It is vital that policymakers, employers, and researchers take a nuanced approach to understanding and addressing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace to meet the unique needs of these communities.”
Concealing LGB Identity
- One in five (19%) cisgender bisexual employees reported being out to all of their coworkers, compared to half (50%) of cisgender lesbians and gay men.
- Among all cisgender LGB employees, bisexual employees were significantly less likely than gay and lesbian employees to report experiencing discrimination at work including being fired or not hired at some point in their lives (24% v. 34%).
- Among only cisgender LGB employees who were out at work, similar proportions reported experiencing discrimination: 33% of bisexual employees and 37% of gay and lesbian employees reported experiencing workplace discrimination.
- Out gay and bisexual men were more likely to experience employment discrimination than out lesbians and bisexual women: 46% of out bisexual men and 43% of out gay men reported having been fired or not being hired because of their LGB status. In contrast, about one-quarter of out lesbians (25%) and out bisexual women (27%) reported similar experiences.
- Among all cisgender LGB employees, 34% of bisexual employees and 42% of gay and lesbian employees reported experiencing at least one type of harassment (verbal, physical, or sexual) in the workplace at some point in their lives.
- Among only cisgender LGB employees who were out at work, 60% of out bisexual men reported one form of harassment (verbal, physical, or sexual), compared to 38% of bisexual women and 33% of out lesbians.
- Among only cisgender LGB employees who were out at work, 58% of bisexual men and 50% of gay men said they had left a job because of unfair treatment compared to 35% of lesbians and 29% of bisexual women.