1 in 4 Experience Workplace Discrimination

And 1 in 3 LGBT people are not out at work

Today, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a report about employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the negative impact it can have on people who are considering coming out at work.

Brad Sears (photos courtesy of UCLA)

One of the most stunning facts that come out of the research is that as many as one in four LGBT employees experience discrimination in the workplace. And one in three people are not yet out at work.

The report finds that evidence of employment discrimination against LGBT people has been consistently documented over the past 40 years. Among LGB respondents, 42 percent have experienced employment discrimination at some point in their lives, and 27 percent admit its happened in the past five years.

The pattern of discrimination, as one might imagine, is more common among people who are open about their sexual orientation at work. Thirty-eight percent of employees who are out in the workplace had experienced discrimination in the five year period prior to the survey, compared with 10 percent of those who are in the closet.

“This new data shows that it’s still risky to come out about being LGBT in the workplace,” says study co-author Christy Mallory. “It’s not surprising that the data also shows that one-third of LGB employees are not open about their sexual orientation to anyone in the workplace.”

And for transgender people, the rates of discrimination are even higher.

“Recent studies show that pervasiveness of discrimination against transgender people in hiring proves have a devastating impact,” says 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.”

Ilan Meyer

Not only does discrimination impact the ability to work effectively, but it can also inhibit promotions and income. Because of discrimination, says Sears, and fear of discrimination, many LGBT employees hide their identities, are paid less and have fewer employment opportunities than their straight co-workers.

“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, co-worker, 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.”

Are you out at work or thinking about coming out? We’d like to hear from you.