Nearly two-thirds of all American adults (64%) believe it is unfair that federal law currently allows for an employer to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian. A similar majority (60%) of heterosexual adults were not even aware that federal law does not provide protections for employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
An overwhelming majority (79%) of heterosexuals also feel that how an employee does his or her job, and not their sexual orientation, should be the standard for judging an employee.
When it comes to the issue of transgender employees in the work place, two thirds of heterosexuals (67%) also agree that employee performance should be the standard by which they are judged and not whether they are transgender.
These are some of the results from the latest Out & Equal Workplace survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications and Out & Equal, among 2,868 U.S. adults, of whom 350 self-identified as, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT). The survey is an annual barometer of attitudes surrounding GLBT issues in the workplace and is the longest-running survey of its kind.
Within the next two weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a proposed U.S. federal law that, if enacted, will prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The current version of the bill was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2007 and for the first time includes gender identity as a protected category in relation to job discrimination.
“This survey continues to demonstrate that clear majorities of American adults agree that discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is wrong,” says Out & Equal Executive Director Selisse Berry. “It is clear that heterosexual co-workers are realising that sexual orientation is not relevant to job performance.”
In addition, more heterosexuals (88%) say they would feel indifferent or feel positively upon learning that a co-worker is gay or lesbian. About one-in-ten (12%) say they would feel negatively.
This positive response from co-workers is likely a contributing factor to the increase in the numbers of gays and lesbians who feel comfortable about being open in the workplace about their sexual orientation.
In 2007, 54 percent of GLBT adults are comfortable having a photo of their spouse, partner or significant other on their desk, compared to only 34 percent in 2002 who felt this way.
In 2007, 64 percent of GLBT adults are comfortable introducing their spouse, partner or significant other to their co-workers, compared to 50 percent in 2002 who said they would be comfortable doing this.
In addition, half (51%) of gay and lesbian employees say they hear anti-gay comments at work and 15 percent say they were harassed on the job by co-workers.
“Companies have to realise that having policies in place is not where workplace equality ends,” added Berry. “It is critical to ensure that all employees feel safe in their jobs and that the policies are being evenly enforced. This will not only send a strong message to the workforce that discrimination will not be tolerated, but creating a discrimination-free workplace will be an attraction to future employees considering work for the company.”
In most categories of workplace benefits, majorities of heterosexuals believe that same-sex couples should receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples:
Sixty-four percent of heterosexual adults feel that leave rights for family and medical emergencies as outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act should be applicable to the family circumstances facing both heterosexual and gay and lesbian employees.
Fifty-nine percent of heterosexual adults feel that regardless of sexual orientation, all employees are entitled to equal benefits on the job, such as health insurance for same-sex partners or spouses.
Fifty-eight percent of heterosexual adults feel that health benefits extended by employers to both heterosexual spouses and partners of gay or lesbian employees should not be taxable.
Fifty-six percent of heterosexuals feel that both heterosexual spouses and partners of gay or lesbian employees should be eligible to receive assistance with transfers to new locations when their spouse/partner has been transferred by their own employer.