Gays and Lesbians Face Persistent Workplace Discrimination and Hostility Despite Improved Policies and Attitudes

Findings of New National Survey by Out & Equal, Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive to be Presented at Out & Equal Workplace Conference in Orlando on Friday, September 13

Orlando, FL — September 12, 2002— Nearly two out of five (41%) gay and lesbian adults in America's workplaces report facing some form of hostility or harassment on the job according to a new national study conducted by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris interactive.  Moreover, almost one out of every ten (9%) gay or lesbian adults also state they were fired or dismissed unfairly from a previous job, or (8%) pressured to quit a job because of their sexual orientation.  

In addition, when over 2,000 Americans surveyed were asked which groups of people in society they perceive experience discrimination in the workplace, such as being fired, harassed or denied a promotion, almost three quarters (73%) answered 'gays and lesbians' - the second highest survey response, just behind 'older adults aged 65 and older' (78%).  Other groups mentioned as vulnerable to workplace discrimination included 'people with disabilities' (68%), 'women' (65%), 'African Americans' (61%), 'Hispanic Americans'(60%), 'Muslims' (60%), 'Asian Americans' (44%) and 'Jews' (39%).

The far-reaching online survey was commissioned by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a non-profit organization that provides support and advocacy for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community in the workplace.  The complete results of this survey will be made available at the opening session of the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Orlando, FL on Friday, September 15.  The Out & Equal Workplace Summit is the nation's leading conference for GLBT employees and human resources professionals addressing these issues in the workplace.

"The attitudes and findings underscore the importance of the Workplace Summit," said Out & & Equal Executive Director Selisse Berry.  "With GLBT employees continuing to face harassment, hostility and discrimination, it's important for all of us in corporate America to work together to make workplaces safe and equitable for everyone."

Americans across-the-board show significant support for fair treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace, according to the online survey.  Over three quarters (77%) of all Americans sampled said that sexual orientation should not be a factor when evaluating an employee's job performance.  More than six out of ten (64%) also said all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, should be entitled to equal benefits on the job, such as health insurance for their partners or spouses.

This favorable snapshot still contrasts starkly with actual workplace climate where many GLBT adults experience persistent discrimination and feel they must conceal ordinary details about their personal lives from co-workers.   Almost one out of every four GLBT respondents (23%) state they were harassed on the job by co-workers, while 12% state they were denied promotions or job advancement because of their sexual orientation. 

Recognizing that in 38 states it is entirely legal to fire an employee because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, it may not be surprising that 9% of GLBT individuals surveyed report they were fired or dismissed unfairly, while 8% say they were pressured to quit a job because of harassment or hostility against them in their workplace.

When asked how comfortable they would be to display a photo of a same-sex spouse, partner or significant other, about one in four (24%) were very or extremely comfortable as compared to almost half (47%) of heterosexuals.  While half (51%) of heterosexual adults would feel very or extremely comfortable introducing their spouse, partner or significant others to their boss or management, only one-third (32%) of GLBT adults do the same.

"Even though fairness and protections for gays and lesbians in corporate America are increasing, attitudes are obviously not catching up as fast," said Wesley Combs, President of Witeck-Combs Communications, a strategic marketing and public relations firm specializing in reaching the GLBT market.  "Corporations need to understand that having policies that include equal benefits for gays and lesbians may not be implemented fairly or even be in synch with the corporate culture."

This data is being released at a pivotal moment in the rights of GLBT people nationwide, especially Florida.  Recently, the Orlando City Council has been grappling with their plan to pass a civil rights law that would add sexual orientation to the list of protected classes, making it illegal to deny jobs or promotions, housing or service in public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants to someone because he or she is gay or lesbian.  In addition, anti-gay conservatives unsuccessfully tried just this week to convince Miami-Dade County voters to repeal a 1998 ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

These were among the key findings of a recent consumer research survey of 2,203 adults conducted by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive.  Of those adults surveyed, about five percent (5%) self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  The survey was commissioned by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and was conducted online between August 26 and September 2, 2002 by Harris Interactive, a worldwide market research and consulting firm, in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm with special expertise in the GLBT market.

About the Out & Equal Workplace Summit

The full report will be presented at the opening session of the 2002 Out & Equal Workplace Summit.  The conference, set for September 13-15 at the Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, FL, will bring together more than 400 human resources professionals; GLBT workplace advocates, straight allies and other committed individuals from around the country to receive the latest updates on GLBT issues in the workplace.  Over 50 workshops are planned across a wide range of GLBT workplace issues and will include keynote addresses by Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former NOW president Patricia Ireland, and two plenary panel discussions about transgender issues at American Airlines and international issues facing GLBT workers overseas.  For a complete listing of speakers and panels, visit www.outandequal.org.

Notes on reading tables

GLBT refers to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender respondents.  The percentage of respondents has been included for each item.  An asterisk (*) signifies a value of less than one-half percent.  A dash represents a value of zero.  Percentages may not always add up to 100% because of computer rounding or the acceptance of multiple answers from respondents answering that question.


TABLE 1

Forms of Discrimination in the Workplace

"Have you ever faced any of these forms of discrimination in the workplace because of your sexual orientation or gender identity?  Please check all that apply."

Base: GLBT Respondents

GLBT

Total

%

%

I was harassed on the job by co-workers

23

-

I was denied a promotion or job advancement

12

-

I was fired or dismissed unfairly

9

-

I was pressured to quit my job because of harassment or hostility

8

-

Other form of discrimination

22

-

I have never faced any form of discrimination in the workplace because of my sexual orientation or gender identity

59

-


TABLE 2

Frequency of Experiencing Discrimination

"How often do you think the following groups experience discrimination in the workplace, for example, are fired or dismissed from a job, been harassed, or been denied promotions or job advances?"

Base: All Respondents

Often

Sometimes

Rarely

Never

African Americans

GLBT

%

22

41

28

10

Total

%

18

44

27

12

Hispanic Americans

GLBT

%

9

47

28

16

Total

%

12

48

29

11

Asian Americans

GLBT

%

5

34

40

21

Total

%

5

39

41

15

Women

GLBT

%

19

51

21

9

Total

%

19

46

26

9

People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender

GLBT

%

45

35

9

11

Total

%

29

44

20

7

Older adults, aged 65 and older

GLBT

%

42

41

12

6

Total

%

32

46

15

7

People with disabilities

GLBT

%

24

53

12

10

Total

%

21

47

22

10

People who are Jewish

GLBT

%

4

23

56

18

Total

%

5

34

42

19

People who are Muslim

GLBT

%

11

43

38

9

Total

%

14

46

29

11


TABLE 3

Sexual Orientation and the Workplace

"How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements…?"

Base: All Respondents

Strongly Agree

Somewhat Agree

Neither Agree Nor Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Strongly Disagree

Not Applicable

Decline To Answer

Regardless of their sexual orientation, all employees are entitled to equal benefits on the job, such as health insurance for their partners or spouses.

GLBT

%

74

14

3

5

1

3

-

Total

%

53

11

8

6

12

7

4

How an employee does his or her job should be the standard for judging an employee, not their sexual orientation.

GLBT

%

91

4

2

-

*

3

*

Total

%

68

8

6

2

5

8

3

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are treated fairly and equally in my workplace.

GLBT

%

14

26

14

14

8

14

11

Total

%

26

14

15

5

4

21

14

It would be very difficult for an employee to be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in my workplace.

GLBT

%

15

16

19

18

18

13

2

Total

%

12

12

17

14

22

14

9

I would be uncomfortable if my boss were openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

GLBT

%

9

1

4

6

73

5

1

Total

%

14

12

16

10

34

8

5

I would be uncomfortable if any of my co-workers were openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

GLBT

%

9

2

4

5

76

2

2

Total

%

11

11

15

13

38

8

4

I favor written nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

GLBT

%

64

17

6

2

2

8

1

Total

%

36

14

19

4

10

9

8


TABLE 4

Comfort Level in Sharing Personal Information at Work

"In your current or your most recent job, how comfortable are you or were you…?"

Base: All Respondents

Extremely Comfortable

Very Comfortable

Comfortable

Somewhat Comfortable

Not at all Comfortable

Not Applicable

Having a photo of your spouse, partner or a significant other on your desk or in your office

GLBT

%

17

7

10

13

20

33

Total

%

28

17

16

4

4

32

Having a photo of your children on your desk or in your office

GLBT

%

45

22

19

9

4

-

Total

%

44

25

23

4

4

-

Heterosexual

%

45

25

23

3

4

-

Discussing your after work social life, including details about who you share time with, such as your spouse, dates, friends or partner

GLBT

%

11

24

18

17

18

12

Total

%

20

19

24

12

9

16

Introducing your spouse, partner or significant other to your co-workers

GLBT

%

24

11

15

13

14

23

Total

%

30

18

22

4

4

22

Introducing your spouse, partner or significant other to your boss or management

GLBT

%

25

7

9

22

14

23

Total

%

29

19

20

5

4

23

Socializing with others at work who are like you

GLBT

%

16

25

22

16

7

15

Total

%

28

22

26

6

3

15

Displaying symbols or personal items at your desk or in your office that show others about your life, personal interests, or beliefs such as a rainbow flag, Jewish star, cross, or the flag of your nation of origin

GLBT

%

13

5

26

6

26

23

Total

%

23

15

21

6

7

28

Using the proper pronoun when referring to the person who is your spouse, date or partner

GLBT

%

20

9

20

13

18

20

Total

%

-

-

-

-

-

-

* Note: Only GLBT respondents were asked about the statement "Using the proper pronoun when referring to the person who is your spouse, date or partner".


METHODOLOGY

This study was conducted online within the United States between August 26 and September 2, 2002, among a nationwide cross section of 2,203 adults. Figures for age, sex, race, education, region and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.  "Propensity score" weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 2 percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. However, this is not a probability sample.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.


About Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates champions safe and equitable workplaces for GLBT people.  They advocate building and strengthening successful organizations that value all employees, customers and communities.  In addition to the annual Workplace Summit, Out & Equal’s programs include:  Building Bridges Diversity Training - designed to increase employee productivity, improve morale, and strengthen the workplace community by opening up communication to increase awareness and develop an action plan of GLBT issues;  Networking Opportunities – including organized events in regions across the country, providing an opportunity for people to meet, network and learn about issues facing the GLBT community in the workplace.

About Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc.

Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc. (www.witeckcombs.com) is the nation’s premier strategic marketing communications firm, specializing in reaching the gay and lesbian consumer market.  With over nine years experience in this unique market, Witeck-Combs Communications has developed respected relationships throughout the community and serves as a bridge between corporate America and gay and lesbian consumers.  The Gay Financial Network (gfn.com) has twice identified Bob Witeck and Wesley Combs as two of the nation’s twenty-five most influential openly gay business executives.

About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive (www.harrisinteractive.com) is a worldwide market research and consulting firm best known for The Harris Poll® and its pioneering use of the Internet to conduct scientifically accurate market research. We combine the power of unique methodologies and technology with international expertise in predictive, custom and strategic research. Headquartered in Rochester, NY, with offices across the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Japan and a global network of local market and opinion research firms, the Company conducts international research with fluency in multiple languages. EOE M/F/D/V

To become a member of the Harris Poll OnlineSM and be invited to participate in future online surveys, visit www.harrispollonline.com.

Press Contacts:

Jere Keys, Communications Manager
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
415-694-6512
jkeys@outandequal.org