The LGBTQ+ Employee Experience: The Need for Greater Inclusionary Practices

In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled civil rights law protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees. The ruling bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (CNN, 2020). This ruling was cause for celebration, yet, like previous federal civil rights rulings on behalf of marginalized populations, the workplace climate does not necessarily improve for all employees.

Findings from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 2018

  • 46% of LGBTQ workers say they are closeted at work.
  • 1-in-5 LGBTQ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner.
  • 53% of LGBTQ workers report hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people at least once in a while.
  • 31% of LGBTQ workers say they have felt unhappy or depressed at work.

Findings from NYC’s LGBT Community Center, 2020

  • 40% of LGBTQ employees are not out at work, and 26% of these individuals wish they could be.
  • 36% of out employees have lied or “covered” parts of their identities at work in the past year.
  • 54% of employees who are out at work remain closeted to their clients and customers.
  • 75% reported experiencing at least one negative interaction related to their LGBTQ identity at work in the past year, with 41% experiencing more than ten types of such interactions.

Workplace Consequences-Human Rights Campaign 

  • 1 in 5 employees have stayed home from work because the workplace was not always accepting of LGBTQ people.
  • 1 in 5 searched for a different job. 
  • 1 in 10 LGBTQ workers have left a job because the environment was not very accepting of LGBTQ people.

Responsibilities and Opportunities for Employers to be LGBTQ Inclusive

  • Identify system barriers that do not include all employees equitably:
    • Update policies to ensure equity in benefits, hiring and retention.
    • At all levels of the organization, hire and advance LGBTQ individuals.
    • Adapt language in policies to communicate inclusion. 
    • Engage in organization-wide climate assessments to identify areas where employees experience marginalization or exclusion because of their identities, i.e., LGBTQ, race, age
  • Professional Development
    • Provide education first to business supervisors and leaders; it is their responsibility to model inclusivity of all employees.
    • Address unconscious bias because it happens for many individuals in the workplace.
    • Provide team-building activities and other educational opportunities for interpersonal relationship development.

The top reason LGBTQ workers do not report negative comments they hear about LGBTQ people to a supervisor or human resources is because they do not think anything would be done about it — and they do not want to hurt their relationships with coworkers. This is a burden for the LGBTQ employee but is the responsibility of co-workers and leaders, in particular.


The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 2018. › 2020/06/15 › politics

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