A new study has found that fifty one percent of LGBT workers in the US prefer to hide their identity from their co-workers.
The report, released by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and aiming to examine the workplace climate for LGBT employees, found that, despite significant advances in employment policies at major US corporations, a majority of LGBT workers continue to experience a range of negative consequences because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Researchers also found that younger workers are even more likely to hide their LGBT identity: only five percent of LGBT employees aged 18 to 24 say they are totally open at work, compared to more than 20 percent in older age cohorts.
“Overall attitudes towards LGBT people have come a long way, but we can’t forget that people still struggle at work and that this has a profound impact on LGBT workers’ careers,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
Other findings include that 42 percent of LGBT employees reported lying about their personal lives at least once in the past year, 27 percent have felt distracted, 21 percent have job searched and 13 percent have stayed home from work as a result of working in an environment that is not always accepting of LGBT people.
As for reasons for hiding their identities, 39 percent fear losing connections, 28 percent fear not being considered for advancement, 17 percent fear getting fired and more than one in ten (13 percent) fear for their personal safety.
Transgender workers are much more likely than other groups to report fearing for their personal safety – 40 percent compared to 20 percent of gay men. And 42 percent of transgender workers fear getting fired if they reveal their LGBT identity, compared to 22 percent of gay men.
According to the report, an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity are often unavoidable in casual, non-work related conversations. These conversations occur frequently and are an essential component to building productive work relationships.
At least once per week, 80 percent of LGBT employees confront conversations involving spouses, relationships and dating while 50 percent say the topic of sex arises at least once a week. These conversations are the most likely to make LGBT employees feel uncomfortable: fewer than half feel very comfortable talking about any of these topics.
A total of 58 percent of LGBT workers say someone at work makes a joke or derogatory comment about LGBT people at least once in a while. Similarly, jokes and derogatory comments about other minority groups are equally indicative of a negative climate. About two-thirds (62 percent) of LGBT employees say negative comments about minority groups are made at least once in a while at work.
Even with inclusive employment policies, significant numbers of employees report negative consequences of an unwelcoming environment for LGBT employees. Moreover, the vast majority of LGBT workers do not report instances when they hear an anti-LGBT remark to HR or management. On average, 67 percent ignore it or let it go, nine percent raise the issue with a supervisor and only fivepercent go to HR.
“We’ve found that inclusive non-discrimination policies and equal benefits are the essential first step toward cultivating a productive and engaged LGBT employee, but they are not the last step,” said Daryl Herrschaft, director of the Workplace Project.
“By understanding how LGBT identity surfaces and unfolds in the workplace, we will be better able to turn policy into practice and address opportunities to improve productivity and retention of LGBT employees.”