Although sexual orientation and gender identity have no relationship to workplace performance, during the past four decades a large body of research using a variety of methodologies has consistently documented high levels of discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people at work. Evidence of discrimination has been reviewed and summarized in two recent reports by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law: a 2009 report focused on discrimination in the public sector and a 2007 report focused on employment discrimination in the private sector. This review excerpts key findings from those reports and updates those findings with results from recent studies. In addition, it presents for the first time, data documenting discrimination against LGB employees from the 2008 General Social Survey (GSS), a national probability survey representative of the U.S. population.
The evidence of discrimination in this report has been gathered from a variety of sources, including scientific field studies of LGBT and non-LGBT employees and controlled experiments; findings by courts and legal scholars; findings by federal, state, and local governments; and complaints of discrimination filed with administrative agencies. This report also summarizes research showing the negative impacts of discrimination against LGBT people in terms of health, wages, job opportunities, productivity in the workplace, and job satisfaction.
In sum, this research shows that widespread and continuing employment discrimination against LGBT people has been documented in scientific field studies, controlled experiments, academic journals, court cases, state and local administrative complaints, complaints to community-based organizations, and in newspapers, books, and other media. Federal, state, and local courts, legislative bodies, and administrative agencies and have acknowledged that LGBT people have faced widespread discrimination in employment. Research shows that discrimination against LGBT people has negative impact in terms of health, wages, job opportunities, productivity in the workplace, and job satisfaction.
LGBT people and their non-LGBT coworkers consistently report having experienced or witnessed discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.
- As recently as 2008, the GSS, a national probability survey representative of the U.S. population, found that of LGB respondents, 27% had experienced at least one form of sexual orientation-based discrimination during the five years prior to the survey. More specifically, 27% had experienced workplace harassment and 7% had lost a job.
- The GSS found that among LGB people who are open about their sexual orientation in the workplace, an even larger proportion, 38%, experienced at least one form of discrimination during the five years prior to the survey.
- Not surprisingly, more than one-third of LGB respondents to the GSS reported that they were not out to anyone at work, and only 25% were out to all of their co-workers.
- Consistent with the findings from the GSS, several other national probability surveys and local and national non-probability surveys of LGBT employees and their non-LGBT coworkers indicate widespread and persistent employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
When surveyed separately, transgender respondents report even higher rates of employment discrimination and harassment than LGB people.
- As recently as 2011, 78% of respondents to the largest survey of transgender people to date reported experiencing at least one form of harassment or mistreatment at work because of their gender identity; more specifically, 47% had been discriminated against in hiring, promotion, or job retention.
- Consistently, 70% of transgender respondents to a 2009 California survey and 67% of transgender respondents to a 2010 Utah survey reported experiencing employment discrimination because of their gender identity.
Widespread and continuing employment discrimination against LGBT people has been documented in court cases, state and local administrative complaints, complaints to community-based organizations, academic journals, newspapers, books, and other media. Federal, state, and local administrative agencies and legislative bodies have acknowledged that LGBT people have faced widespread discrimination in employment.
Discrimination and fear of discrimination can have negative effects on LGBT employees in terms of wages, job opportunities, mental and physical health, productivity, and job satisfaction.
- Studies consistently show that gay men earn significantly less than their heterosexual counterparts.
- Census data analyses confirm that in nearly every state, men in same-sex couples earn less than men in heterosexual marriages.
- Several studies show that large percentages of the transgender population are unemployed or have incomes far below the national average.
- Other studies show that discrimination, fear of discrimination, and concealing one’s LGBT identity can negatively impact the well-being of LGBT employees, including their mental and physical health, productivity in the workplace, and job satisfaction.
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