In 2009, just over half of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees in American workplaces did not feel comfortable “coming out,” or sharing their identities with coworkers. New research published by the Human Rights Campaign shows that figure virtually unchanged five years later, even with societal views changing rapidly.
The report noted a number of reasons why LGBT employees may be unsafe disclosing their true identities. Among them are the absence of a federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, 25% of respondents reported hearing offensive comments (such as “that’s so gay”), and over one third of LGBT employees said they “actively lie” about their personal lives in order to fit in.
Businesses face tangible consequences in terms of morale, climate, and retention. 20% of LGBT respondents say the unwelcoming workplace environment led them to seek a new job.
It will take a multi-faceted approach to address these issues. As Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, stated, ”It’s not enough to simply implement inclusive policies — those policies need to be augmented by training and accountability, and [leaders] need to be on the lookout for unconscious bias.”