LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace: A Closer Look at Reality

LGBT Discrimination“I certainly had the competitive advantage to get the job. But surprisingly, I did not make the cut. And I can’t really think of any reason, except that I disclosed during my final interview that I am gay.”

My name is Trevor and I’m 36. I recently moved from upstate New York to Dallas.

I was an operations controller in an Investment Firm in NY but there were no clear growth prospects for me so I decided to leave. I was searching for a job in a newly opened firm in Arizona, I was quite confident with my resume since I have been in the industry for more than 12 years and I have prior experience working with big investment firms.

I applied and went through the selection process. There were two of us who made it to the final interview.

The other applicant was a young analyst who just had his master’s with zilch of working experience. Based on my experience, I certainly had the competitive advantage to get the job.



But surprisingly, I did not make the cut. And I can’t really think of any reason, except that I disclosed during my final interview that I am gay.

Yes, I can still recall how their faces turned when I mentioned it to the interviewers. I’m pretty sure it was the only logical reason. It was petty and ridiculously unfair.

But this is reality!

LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace

Your sexual preference should not be the basis of how great you can become. Just because you are gay doesn’t mean you cannot be great at work.

Which got me thinking, how much discrimination do LGBT people face in the workplace? So I did some research…

In 2011, a number of surveys were done by Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy. The result of their survey illustrate that discrimination and harassment against LGBT are pervasive in the workplace.

It has been found out that 15 to 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job.

Whereas, 8 to 17 percent of gay and transgender workers have reported being passed over for a job or fired for the reason of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Another glaring evidence of discrimination against gay people is the fact that 41 percent of gay and transgender workers were verbally or physically abused or had their workplace vandalized.

Also, straight workers can attest to the prevalence of discrimination against LGBT workers. According to the report by Williams Institute, 12 percent to 30 percent of straight workers have witnessed discrimination based on sexual orientation at work.

Discrimination takes various forms from covert racism to overt forms of discrimination. It might be present in the way the management evaluate the performance of gay workers. Usually, gay workers receive negative performance review from a boss who is openly anti-gay.

Controlled experiments have also been conducted in various workplaces. When researchers send two sets of matched resumes to employers in which one of the resumes indicates the applicant is gay, employers give much more attention in receiving “straight” resumes than “gay” resumes.

LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace

The situation for transgender people is much worse than gays and lesbians. To demonstrate how dire the condition of transgender people in the workplace is, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a comprehensive study in 2011 documenting discrimination against transgender.

The result was revealing.

Ninety percent of transgender individuals have encountered some forms of harassment and or mistreatment at work. On the other hand, 47 percent of workers have experienced undesirable job outcomes merely because they are transgender.

The consequences were: a. 44 percent were passed over for a job. b. 23 percent were denied a promotion. c. 26 percent were fired just because they were transgender.

One can see the real impact of discrimination not only on self-confidence of LGBT individuals but also on the economic aspect, which means that they were deprived of the right to earn for their families. It is no surprise then that there is a high rate of unemployment among LGBT people.

This results in high rates of poverty and lower access to health insurance coverage and social security programs which for most Americans were employment benefits.

Currently, 21 states, including the District of Columbia prohibit most workplaces, either public or private, from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. 14 out of these 21 states also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace

But some of these laws are for public employees alone. In July 2014, former president Barrack Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The same executive order from the president prohibits all companies that receive contract from the federal government from inflicting discrimination to their LGBT employees.

You might wonder, having all these laws, why in America, millions of citizens wake up and go to work knowing very well the risk of losing their job not because of anything they do or fail to do but because of who they are, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Organizations can discriminate against individuals even at the face of extensive framework of anti-discrimination laws. They may have diversity policies and claim to be a champion for advancing LGBT people rights yet they do not practice what they preach.

It is very stressful, disturbing and scary to be in a place where you have to hide who you really are for fear of losing your job. While there are already laws in place to ensure that the rights of LGBT people are protected, sexual orientation or LGBT discrimination still takes place because there is no specific federal law protecting LGBT community on a national scale.

When it comes to discrimination, the overall law that is referred to as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, stipulates that there shall be no employment discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex or national origin; the law does not protect people based on their sexual orientation.

Every attempt to pass federal legislation protecting gay people has been repeatedly denied passage.

In many states, to discriminate against LGBT community is still legal. LGBT Discrimination is at work when it comes to public accommodation, hospital visitations and in many occasions.

The sad fact is, majority of the United States still practice legal discrimination. There is really a need for a strong federal national law to provide equal protections to all workers regardless of their orientation or gender identity in different parts of the country.

LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace

This law, which when legislated, will convey a strong message to businesses to get serious about their responsibilities to their workers or face consequences. We need a law that not only provide ambiguous provisions but that provides clear parameters and legal responsibilities for public and private businesses.


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There is still hope to change the status quo. Today, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage is increasing. This practice is becoming acceptable to other states. In fact, American people’s support of gay rights is gaining momentum.

According to Human Rights Campaign poll, over 70 percent are in favor of eliminating LGBT discrimination in workplaces.

Homophobia is a cancer that eats up on the civilization. Gay rights are human rights. LGBT people deserve equal treatment in all aspect.

Let us work together to achieve a fairer society where everyone lives in harmony regardless of their choice.

Every American has freedom. This freedom also extends to sexual orientation and gender identity. Thus, we must respect each other.

Respect is the social fiber that holds us together. It is the only thing that binds us as a community. Without it, we are taking steps backwards.

There is no other way but to move forward.