Over 10-year stretch, fewer LGBTQ workers say they feel 'closeted' at work
- Slightly less than half (46%) of LGBTQ workers in the U.S. say they are "closeted at work," down from 50% of LGBTQ workers in 2008, according to a new report from the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
- Among those LGBTQ workers who said they were not open about their sexuality orientation and/or gender identity at work, a plurality (38%) said they did so due to the possibility of being stereotyped, while 36% cited the possibility of making others feel uncomfortable.
- One in 10 LGBTQ employees have heard their own manager make negative comments about LGBTQ people. But the number one reason LGBTQ respondents gave for not telling supervisors nor HR about negative comments was: "they don’t think anything would be done about it and because they don't want to hurt their relationships with coworkers." The HRC report is based on a national, probability-based study of 804 self-identified LGBTQ people and a shorter survey of 811 non-LGTBQ people.
The issue of LGBTQ inclusion at work remains one of the more challenging aspects of HR's drive to foster positive organizational cultures. A significant number of this group of workers feels pressured to hide their sexual orientation from coworkers — even going so far as to put off taking caregiver leave to avoid disclosure.
From a legal standpoint, sexual orientation discrimination protections vary due to a circuit split among federal appeals courts. The question remains: Does Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act extend protections to sexual orientation and gender identity under sex discrimination? The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) answers in the affirmative, and has continued to pursue enforcement. Some attorneys advise employers that it may be safer to add LGBTQ workers to your EEO policy now, and avoid becoming a test case later.
Many employers have responded to the issue with diversity hiring initiatives and goals, but experts say that's not enough to keep hires from minority groups, including those in the LGBTQ community, on board. Both internal and external solutions exist, including peer-to-peer sponsorship and support networks. HR may find it difficult to make way for change without the support of top-level executives and managers, however. There's also a huge checklist of factors to consider for issuing broad policies and targets.
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