Florida has a large and vibrant gay and lesbian community. Despite this, however, there are no state protections against discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. Individual localities like Broward County have adopted some protective ordinances, but GLBT rights are still lacking in Florida.
We are not alone in this respect. In all, 29 states have no laws to prohibit employers from engaging in GLBT discrimination. For this reason, many gay and lesbian Americans find it necessary to remain closeted at work, even if they are "out" in their personal lives.
According to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, 48 percent of college-educated gay and lesbian individuals hide their sexual orientation while at work. The report says that about one-third of these individuals hide their orientation at work but not in their personal lives.
For gays and lesbians who remain closeted at work, the personal toll can be significant. These individuals are more likely than their peers to report job-related stress and feelings of isolation. Additionally, they are more likely to say that they want to quit their current job.
Employers aren't always to blame for the feelings of discrimination. Often, it comes from coworkers. Studies show that 52 percent of straight men and 37 percent of straight women say they want gay people to keep their personal lives to themselves.
Some would argue that everyone should keep their personal lives to themselves while at work, regardless of sexual orientation. However, this obviously does not happen. People want to express themselves, and when closeted gays and lesbians can't join in conversations about significant others or their weekend plans, the feelings of isolation can cause a drop in their job satisfaction and productivity.
Check back later this week as we continue our discussion about GLBT rights in the workplace.
Source: Yahoo News, "Study: Nearly half of college-educated gay Americans are in the closet at work," Liz Goodwin, 21 June 2011