Majority of Heterosexual Americans Believe Job Performance Should Be the Standard for Judging an Employee

Majority of Heterosexual Americans Believe Job Performance Should Be the Standard for Judging an Employee, Not Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation
Yet Majority of Americans Mistakenly Believe Current Law Prohibits
Firing Someone Because they are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, WASHINGTON, DC and NEW YORK, NY– October 25, 2011 – According to the 2011 Out & Equal Workplace Survey, nearly three out of four – or 74% - heterosexual adults agree that how an employee performs at his or her job should be the standard for judging an employee, not whether or not they are transgender or if they are gay, lesbian or bisexual.   Most of those (approximately 6 out of 10) indicated not merely agreement, but strong agreement with that statement.

The survey also found that a significant majority of Americans mistakenly believe that such protections already exist.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, is still working its way through the United States Congress since its introduction in 1994.  When asked whether an employer can fire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, only 8% of all Americans knew that it was legal to do so today under federal law. 

“In today’s challenging economic times, it is clear that Americans support workplace anti-discrimination protections that cover all workers, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, so that they are evaluated fairly for the work they do,” said Selisse Berry, Executive Director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. 

“We are very encouraged by the rise in support for the rights of transgender employees and the fact that a significant majority of Americans believe that it is wrong to fire someone simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Berry notes. “Protecting the rights of LGBT employees is not only the right thing to do but it is good for business; the results of this survey reinforce that Americans clearly understand that. The fact that people are unaware of the lack of federal employment protections highlights just how important educational events like the Out & Equal Workplace Summit are.”

The 2011 Out & Equal Workplace Survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive® in conjunction with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and Witeck-Combs Communications, among 2,610 U.S. adults, of whom 2,238 indicated they are heterosexual and 304 self-identified as LGBT. Beginning in 2002, this survey has become a trusted annual barometer of attitudes surrounding LGBT issues in the workplace and is the longest-running national survey of its kind.

The survey also reports 83% of LGBT adults say they are out about their sexual orientation to friends, up from 73% in 2009.  61% of LGBT adults say they are now out to their brothers and sisters, up from only 50% in 2009.  By contrast, only 35% of bisexuals* in this year’s study note that they are out to their co-workers compared to 60% of gays and 62% of lesbians. The same pattern plays out for those who are open with their bosses and managers with 56% of gay men, 44% of lesbians, and only 21% of bisexuals reporting being out.

Berry continues, “These numbers show us that there is still work to do before people are comfortable being open about their sexual orientation at work. In particular, more needs to be done to ensure that bisexuals can disclose their identities safely. The discrimination that bisexual people face in the workplace is sometimes overlooked or dismissed, and this study demonstrates that it needs to be taken seriously.”

The release of this new workplace study comes as Out & Equal kicks off its annual Workplace Summit, considered the world’s premier conference on LGBT workplace equality and attracting thousands of participants. The Out & Equal Workplace Summit is being held October 25-28 in Dallas, TX, at the Hilton Anatole. LGBT employees and straight allies, along with human resources and diversity professionals, representing some of the nation’s leading companies—a majority from the Fortune 500—are set to participate in this year’s summit, focused on achieving workplace equality.

Download a complete copy of the press release and report, with data and methodolgy.

For more information about the Summit or to register, please visit