Key Employment Trends for LGBTQ Persons in the Workplace

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Key Employment Trends for LGBTQ Persons in the Workplace



There have been recent statistics released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on the state of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) communities in the United States. The findings show that sexual orientation and preference are still significant factors in workplace bullying and harassment. LGBTQ employees comprise roughly 20% of the U.S. workforce, but their representation varies across industries. For instance, close to 40% of workers in the entertainment and sports industries are openly gay or lesbian – twice the national average. So what is the current state of LGBTQ employment in the workplace? Read on.

Main Challenges for LGBTQ employees in the workplace

Despite recent progress, the LGBTQ community still faces hostility in the workplace. The statistics are sobering:

  • 20% of LGBTQ workers have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or preference.
  • 22% are not paid or promoted at the same rate as their peers.
  • 37% have reported hearing bi-sexual jokes.
  • 41% have heard transgender jokes.
  • 53% have reported hearing lesbian or gay jokes while at work.

With so many challenges in the workplace, it’s no wonder nearly 50% of all LGBTQ employees remain closeted in their work environment. The statistics are even more stark the farther up the leadership chain you look. Shockingly, only 0.3% of Fortune 500 board positions were occupied by openly LGBTQ people in 2020. And there are only 4 openly gay CEO’s in that group – 0.8%. It's probable that there are more LGBTQ CEOs who remain closeted, due to fear of personal and professional backlash.

LGBTQ legal protections are volatile but improving

Legal protections for LGBTQ individuals are considered to have begun in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. But while Title VII of that act bars discrimination based on sex, it does not explicitly include sexual orientation. That definition is a fine line, but ultimately the act had minimal impact on workplace discrimination for the LGBTQ community.

The situation did not improve at all in the following years. Legislation that would represent real progress, was first introduced in 1994 in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. That act would have made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But after being introduced in 6 consecutive congressional sessions, it was never passed. It wasn’t until 2015 – more than 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act - the Marriage Equality Act began to provide workplace protections for LGBTQ individuals. That act allowed for the inclusion of same sex spouses on employee-sponsored health insurance.

A more positive outcome occurred in June of 2020, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act did in fact protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination in the workplace. The significance of that ruling will have far reaching consequences. States around the country continue to write their own legislation regarding LGBTQ rights, and many of those affect the workplace. For example, Tennessee and Arkansas continue to work to pass restrictions on the restroom facilities. While Iowa works to remove gender identity as a protected class. But for now, discrimination based on an employee’s sexual preference is a federal offense.

Benefits of LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace

While the challenges faced by LGBTQ workers are very real, the overall trend is increasingly positive. Of Fortune 500 firms:

  • 96% have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.
  • 94% have non-discrimination policies that include gender identity.
  • 57% provide domestic partner benefits.
  • 71% include transgender benefits.

These inclusive practices have real results. 25% of LGBTQ employees report staying in a job due to a LGBTQ-inclusive work environment, while 10% have left due to a hostile environment. In a post-covid job market, employee retention is paramount. Besides promoting employee retention, an inclusive workplace has other benefits. Employees are shown to be more productive. A diverse workforce is more efficient at decision making and problem solving. The available talent pool greatly increases for an inclusive organization. And perhaps the greatest benefit of all will come from an improved reputation for the organization.

The Takeaway

In today's competitive hiring market, it’s important to create an inclusive culture where everyone feels welcome. TransLucent Resources can help. Learn more by signing up here to receive our free e-book – “8 Reasons to Focus on LGBTQ Inclusion Today.” Or contact us here.