Journal of Community Medicine & Health Education
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Employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people is a significant occupational health and social
welfare problem. The Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation law and public policy, estimates that between
16 to 68% of LGB people report experiencing employment discrimination (Badgett, Lau, Sears, & Ho, 2007). There are repeated
anecdotal examples of how the workplace is currently unsafe for LGB people. For example, LGB workers have been subjected to
anti-gay bullying, name-calling, and physical harassment by their co-workers and bosses, accused of spreading their �homosexual
agendas� when talking about their lives, and arbitrarily fired because they are different (American Civil Liberties Union, 2007).
However, not all employment discrimination experiences against LGB people are the same. This Internet-based descriptive
study examined the experiences of LGB people in the workplace. In particular, the study explored the extent to which LGB
people living and/or working in a large metropolitan city in the Midwest experience sexual orientation-based harassment
and discrimination in the workplace, the extent to which the experience of sexual orientation-based harassment differs by
certain characteristics, the extent to which LGB people experience stigma consciousness, the extent to which the experience of
stigma consciousness differs by certain characteristics, and the relationship between sexual orientation-based harassment and
discrimination and stigma consciousness.
A convenience sample (N = 215) of LGB workers, aged 18 to 64, living and/or working in a large metropolitan city in
the Midwest was recruited using various social networking sites, Internet and print advertisements and paper flyers at several
Chicago-area agencies serving LGB people. Participants were given an anonymous survey examining workplace stigma-related
experiences. Several existing measures were used, including Waldo�s (1999) Workplace Heterosexist Experiences Questionnaire,
Pinel�s (1999) Stigma Consciousness Questionnaire for Gay Men and Lesbians, and Mohr and Fassinger�s (2000) Outness
Inventory, which highlighted some of the differences in LGB workplace experiences. Major findings of the study were that LGB
workers� stigma-related experiences differed by social identity, that outness may positively impact the workplace, and that formal
legal protections do not necessarily prevent workplace stigma experiences.
Findings of the study have relevance for education, practice, and policy. Work is an important part of our lives, yet many
LGB workers are prevented from full participation in the workplace because of their stigma-related experiences. Practitioners
are likely to encounter LGB workers affected by stigma-related experiences, and have a responsibility to affect change, both with
that individual client and with broader social welfare policy systems.
Trevor G. Gates, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Social Work SUNY-College, NY, University of Illinois at Chicago. Trevor?s direct practice as a clinical social worker has focused on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. His research is on the occupational experiences of LGB workers in the Midwest.
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