Three-quarters of heterosexual adults agree — and 60 per cent strongly agree — that how an employee performs at his job should be the standard for judging an employee, not whether or not he is transgender or gay, lesbian or bisexual.
But a significant majority of Americans mistakenly believe such protections already exist, according to the 2011 Out & Equal workplace survey of 2,238 heterosexual and 304 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) adults.
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 eight per cent of survey respondents knew 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.
"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."
While 83 per cent of LGBT adults said they are out about their sexual orientation to friends — up from 73 percent in 2009 — only 35 per cent of bisexuals are out to their co-workers compared to 60 per cent of gays and 62 per cent of lesbians. The same pattern plays out for those who are open with their bosses and managers, with 56 per cent of gay men, 44 per cent of lesbians and only 21 per cent of bisexuals reporting being out.
“These numbers show us that there is still work to do before people are comfortable being open about their sexual orientation at work,” said Berry. “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."
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