Top 10 Reasons Why the Workplace Environment for LGBT People Matters to Employers


The social and legal landscape maybe changing for LGBT people, but still over half (53 percent) of LGBT workers nationwide hide who they are at work.  Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and only 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Here are some realities LGBT people face daily in the workplace:

  1. One in four LGBT employees reported that coworkers became uncomfortable when mentioning something related to sexual orientation or gender identity. Employee engagement suffers by up to 30% due to unwelcoming environments.
  2.  9% of LGBT employees left a job because the environment was not accepting and one in five LGBT people report looking for other employment for the same reason.
  3. 62% of LGBT workers reported hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people. When stereotypes are more routinely invoked for a minority group, it sends a toxic message of double standards to even more employees.
  4. One in four employees stayed in a job specifically because the environment was inclusive.
  5. The concept of being open in the workplace is salient as over the course of a workday most people are often compelled or opt to reveal aspects of who they are. To not do so can isolate a person and erode valuable rapport with co-workers, managers and would-be mentors.
  6. Twenty-nine states do not offer protections on the basis of sexual orientated and 33 states do not on the basis of gender identity. Extended protections, critical benefits and inclusive practices help attract and retain top talent.
  7. 35% of LGBT employees felt compelled to lie about their personal lives while at work. An employer can lose talent and employee engagement due to workplace environment and culture.
  8. 53% of LGBT employees nationwide are not out and hide who they are at work. The cues that LGBT people and other minority groups get can make them feel welcome and thrive or can push them to the sidelines of job advancement and the real world application of this business case for full inclusion.
  9. LGBT-inclusive policies and benefits are necessary for cultivating an inclusive environment.
  10. Often critical to job advancement, LGBT workers reported the most significant rates of feeling challenged by an immutable characteristic, sexual orientation, in finding a mentor on the job.

HRC Foundation released the report, The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion, in May 2014. The report surveyed 800 LGBT workers and an unspecified number of non-LGBT workers. The HRC Foundation has been working directly with Fortune 500, AmLaw 200 and hundreds of other major employers on the implementation of LGBT-inclusive policies, benefits, trainings and other best practices for over 15 years. Since 2002, much of corporate America has engaged in the annual Corporate Equality Index, a national scorecard evaluating workplace protections, equitable benefits, internal diversity trainings and metrics as well as external engagement with the LGBT community.

HRC is also leading a campaign to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for federal sexual orientation and gender identity workplace protections.