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1 in 4 LGBT State, Local Employees Experienced Discrimination at Work

About half of LGBT people who work in education and law enforcement are not out to their supervisors

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Texas State Capitol

Over 600,000 LGBT employees are currently employed by state and local governments. One in five LGBT employees has worked in state or local government at some point in their careers, including 9% who have worked solely in state and local government jobs.

A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds more than one in four (28%) LGBT state and local government employees have experienced discrimination or harassment at work. This includes being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Using survey data collected in May 2021, researchers examined experiences of employment discrimination and harassment against LGBT people working for state and local governments.

Results indicate that religious beliefs often underlie discrimination and harassment even in government jobs. Among LGBT employees who have experienced mistreatment in the workplace, 85% of state and local government employees said that it was motivated by the employer’s religious beliefs. In contrast, 53% of LGBT employees who have worked only in private sector jobs said that religious beliefs motivated the unfair treatment against them.

“Despite stronger legal protections for LGBT public sector employees, patterns of discrimination and harassment in state and local government workplaces mirror those observed in private sector employment,” said lead author Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “As in the private sector, discrimination and harassment of LGBT state and local government workers is widespread and pervasive.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

Discrimination and Harassment

  • 28% of LGBT employees who have ever worked in state or local government reported experiencing discrimination or harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
    • About one in ten LGBT employees reported being fired (11%) and/or not hired (9%) by a state or local government employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of LGBT state or local government employees reported verbal harassment at work, 9% reported sexual harassment, and 8% reported physical harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • One-third (35%) of LGBT employees who work for state or local government employers have looked for other jobs because of how they were treated based on their LGBT status and/or because the workplace was uncomfortable for LGBTQ people.

Religious Motivation

  • Among those who have experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace, a majority (85%) of LGBT employees who have worked only in state or local government jobs said the unfair treatment they experienced was motivated by religious beliefs.

Avoiding Discrimination

  • 63% of LGBT employees currently employed by state or local governments are not open about being LGBT to their supervisor and 30% are not out to any of their co-workers.
  • About half of LGBT people who have ever worked in K-12 education (49%), higher education (55%), or law enforcement (54%) are not out to their current supervisor.
  • About one-quarter of LGBT employees who have ever worked in K-12 education (25%), higher education (22%), or law enforcement (26%) are not out to any of their co-workers.
  • 42% of LGBT state and local government employees reported taking steps to change how they present themselves at work to avoid discrimination and harassment.

Read the report.

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

Dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.

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december 2021

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