Study: 53 percent of LGBT employees are closeted at work

Wisconsin Gazette

About 53 percent of LGBT employees nationwide are closeted on the job, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest gay civil rights group.

HRC noted that consistent legal protections are not afforded to LGBT people state to state: There are no statewide laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 29 states and gender identity in 33 states.

“While LGBT-inclusive corporate policies are becoming the norm, the fact is that LGBT workers still face a national patchwork of legal protections, leaving many to hide who they are for fear of discrimination in the workplace and in their communities,” said Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s workplace equality program. “Even among those private sector employers with laudable, inclusive policies and practices, these are necessary but not wholly sufficient for creating a climate of inclusion. Employees are getting married without telling their coworkers for fear of losing social connections, or they’re not transitioning even though they know they need to for fear of losing their jobs. The inclusive policies coming from the boardroom have not fully made it into the everyday culture of the American workplace.”

To prepare the report, HRC surveyed more than 800 LGBT workers across the country, and also added a survey of non-LGBT workers.

The research showed that

• Fifty-three percent of LGBT employees hide who they are at work.

• More than 80 percent of non-LGBT workers report that conversations about social lives, relationships and dating come up weekly and often daily and 81 percent feel that LGBT people “should not have to hide who they are at work.” However, less than half would feel comfortable hearing an LGBT coworker talk about dating.

• One in four LGBT employees report hearing negative comments such as “that’s so gay” while at work.

• One-fifth of LGBT workers report looking for a job specifically because the environment wasn’t accepting of LGBT identities.

• Twenty-six percent of LGBT workers have stayed in a job because the environment was accepting.

“Employers must go beyond policies to a truly inclusive practice,” said Fidas. “By implementing training aimed at improving the day-to-day climate for LGBT employees, workplaces can make significant improvements in the lived experience of their employees, whether in the corner office or on the factory floor.”