Although evidence suggests America has become more tolerant in recent years, a majority of LGBT Americans still feel the need to keep closeted in the workplace. That’s according to a recent study by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), which surveyed 800 LGBT workers in the U.S. and found that 53 percent feel compelled to hide their identity from coworkers. What’s more, 35 percent said they feel obligated to lie about their personal lives, and one-third said negative workplace environments distract them from their jobs.
As Trudy Ring writes for The Advocate, the HRC findings underscore the importance of the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a national law that would prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. While many companies have such protections in place — 91 percent of Fortune 500 firms, according to The Advocate — only 21 states have adopted such measures, and of those, a mere 17 cover gender identity.
In addition to polling LGBT workers, the HRC surveyed non-LGBT workers, and what they found was a “double standard in straight employees’ attitudes toward their LGBT colleagues,” as Ring writes. While 81 percent of the non-LGBT workers surveyed said people should be able to talk openly in the office about their social lives, regardless of sexual orientation, fewer than half indicated that they would be comfortable hearing LGBT coworkers discuss dating.
“While LGBT-inclusive corporate policies are becoming the norm, the fact is that LGBT workers still face a national patchwork of legal protections, leaving many to hide who they are for fear of discrimination in the workplace and in their communities,” Deena Fidas, the director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, said in a press release. “Even among those private sector employers with laudable, inclusive policies and practices, these are necessary but not wholly sufficient for creating a climate of inclusion.”