Half of LGBTQ workers have faced job discrimination, new report finds

The study’s analysis drew a succinct conclusion: “employment discrimination against LGBT people continues to be persistent and widespread.”

By: - September 16, 2021 6:30 am

(Image via pxHere.com)

By Victoria A. Brownworth

A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law reveals stunning details about job discrimination against LGBT people.

According to the report, 46% of LGBT workers have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives, including being fired, not hired or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Williams Institute study states that over 8 million workers in the U.S. identify as LGBT. The study stipulates that “Employment discrimination and harassment against LGBT people has been documented in a variety of sources and found to negatively impact employees’ health and well-being and to reduce job commitment and satisfaction.”

The Williams Institute examined the experiences of employment discrimination and harassment against LGBT adults using a survey of 935 LGBT adults conducted in May of 2021. Lifetime, five-year, and past-year discrimination were assessed among adults employed as of March 2020 — right before many workplaces were forced to shut down because of COVID-19.

The Institute explains that “this survey is one of the first to gather information about experiences of sexual orientation and gender identity employment discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the year following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that employment discrimination against LGBT people is prohibited by the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The study’s analysis drew a succinct conclusion: “employment discrimination against LGBT people continues to be persistent and widespread.”

This discrimination and harassment was ongoing for LGBT workers. In addition to the 46% of LGBT workers who have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives, nearly one-third (31.1%) of LGBT respondents reported that they experienced discrimination or harassment within the past five years.

Overall, 8.9% of employed LGBT people reported that they were fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year.

As other recent studies have shown, discrimination impacted LGBT people of color more that white LGBT people: 11.3% of LGBT employees of color and 6.5% of white LGBT employees reported discrimination or harassment.

The percentage of those who experienced discrimination or harassment was five times as high for those who were out as LGBT to at least some people at work as compared to those who were not out (10.9% compared to 2.2%).

Over half (57.0%) of LGBT employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at work reported that their employer or co-workers did or said something to indicate that the unfair treatment they experienced was motivated by religious beliefs. Again, that experience was impacted LGBT people of color more: Nearly two-thirds (63.5%) of LGBT employees of color said that religion was a motivating factor in their experiences of workplace discrimination compared to 49.4% of white LGBT employees.

Forcing LGBT workers to live closeted dual lives was an element of how people coped with discrimination and harassment. Many employees reported engaging in behaviors to avoid discrimination and harassment, including hiding their LGBT identity and changing their physical appearance. Many left their jobs or considered leaving their jobs due to unfair treatment.

Over one in four (29.8%) LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of employment discrimination (being fired or not hired) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives. One-third (33.2%) of LGBT employees of color and one-quarter (26.3%) of white LGBT employees reported experiencing employment discrimination (being fired or not hired) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT employees of color were significantly more likely to report not being hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity than white LGBT employees: 29.0% of LGBT employees of color reported not being hired based on their LGBT status compared to 18.3% of white LGBT employees.

Trans employees were also significantly more likely to experience discrimination based on their LGBT status than cisgender LGB employees: Nearly half (48.8%) of trans employees reported experiencing discrimination (being fired or not hired) based on their LGBT status compared to 27.8% of cisgender LGB employees. In addition, over twice as many trans employees reported not being hired (43.9%) because of their LGBT status compared to LGB employees (21.5%).

Respondents also reported other types of unfair treatment and harassment based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, including not being promoted, not receiving raises, being treated differently than those with different-sex partners, having their schedules changed or reduced, and being excluded from company events.

About one-third (37.7%) of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of harassment at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives. Harassment included violence on the job. One in five (20.8%) LGBT employees reported experiencing physical harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Reports of physical harassment included being “punched,” “hit,” and ‘beaten up” in the workplace.

LGBT employees of color were significantly more likely to report experiencing verbal harassment (35.6% compared to 25.9%) at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity than white LGBT employees. In addition, trans employees were significantly more likely to report experiencing verbal harassment over the course of their careers than cisgender LGB employees (43.8% compared to 29.3%). In many cases, the verbal harassment came from employees’ supervisors and co-workers, as well as customers.

One in four (25.9%) LGBT employees reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace because of their sexual orientation and gender identity at some point in their careers. Although trans employees were not more likely than cisgender employees to report sexual harassment over the course of their careers, they were twice as likely to report recent experiences of sexual harassment: 22.4% reported sexual harassment in the past five years compared to 11.9% of cisgender LGBT employees.

Two-thirds (67.5%) of LGBT employees reported that they have heard

negative comments, slurs, or jokes about LGBTQ people at work. Many LGBT people reported being called or hearing words like “f*gg*t,” “queer,” “sissy,” “tr***y,” and “d*ke” in the workplace.

Also concerning in the Williams Institute report is that LGBT people continue to experience workplace discrimination even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. Nine percent (8.9%) of LGBT employees reported that they were fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year.

One in ten (11.3%) LGBT employees of color reported experiencing some form of employment discrimination (including being fired or not hired) based on their sexual orientation or gender identity within the past year. The breadth of the Williams Institute report is vast and includes other elements of discrimination and harassment pre- and post-pandemic lockdown. The full report also includes quotes from respondents providing more detail about their experiences of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Read the full 39-page report at  https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.