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Study says 48 percent of gay Americans closeted at work: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. Despite Florida's vibrant GLBT community, we are among 29 states that do not prohibit employers from engaging in gay and lesbian discrimination at work.

In light of these circumstances, the results of a new study should come as no surprise. The Center for Work-Life Policy reports that 48 percent of college-educated gays and lesbians hide their sexual orientation while at work. About one-third of these individuals remain closeted despite being "out" in their personal lives.

As we wrote in our last post, much of the discriminatory sentiment can come from coworkers and not employers. The result for closeted gays and lesbians are feelings of isolation and stress.

Despite lack of federal and state protections, many companies have policies which specifically protect gay and lesbian workers against discrimination. Among the nation's Fortune 500 companies, nearly 90 percent prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.

Many even offer benefits to same-sex partners of employees. About 57 percent of these Fortune 500 companies offer such benefits. The company Cisco even covers the tax premium same-sex couples must pay for being in a domestic partnership rather than a marriage.

A lot of companies have policies and protections, but closeted gay and lesbian employees may not know about them. One of the study's co-authors says: "It's not just the policies, but also how well they're communicated. What we found is that people aren't always sure that they have these policies or what it means, both gay and straight."

Hopefully, in time we will see more state and federal laws to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. Until then, individual companies should continue to offer their own protections, and make sure they actively promote an environment where all employees feel free to be themselves.

Source: Yahoo News, "Study: Nearly half of college-educated gay Americans are in the closet at work," Liz Goodwin, 21 June 2011

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