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Sexual Orientation Discrimination Issue at the Workplace Essay


Introduction

Discrimination of individuals perceived to be gays, lesbians, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) has been a public and philosophical debate over the last few decades. Studies have shown that discrimination against LGBT employees is evident at the workplace and causes negative psychological impacts on the employees (Rimmerman, Wald & Wilcox, 2010).

In particular, stigmatization is evident in various workplaces across the country. While some LGBT employees are willing to disclose their sexual orientation, the fear of discrimination and stigmatization restrains most employees, which affects their psychological wellbeing and productivity at the workplace (Rimmerman et al., 2010). Thus, sexual orientation discrimination is one of the major problems facing modern companies.

Study hypothesis and variables

This paper argues that the best way of solving the problem is not just enacting anti-discrimination laws and policies, but also providing a good environment for educating the managers on the need to encourage disclosure of information about sexual orientation and enlighten their employees to promote understanding amongst them.

This hypothesis is believed true because some previous studies have shown a possibility of a link between the disclosure of employee sexual orientation and other factors such as job satisfaction, positive job attitudes and management support.

Therefore, the study’s independent variable will be the disclosure of sexual orientation while the dependent variables will be job satisfaction and attitudes.

Definitions

According to Weichselbaumer (2003), sexual orientation discrimination involves any act of harassing or treating differently individuals or groups based on the actual or supposed state of being gay, transgender, lesbians or bisexual. It includes such forms of discrimination as making decisions on hiring, firing, reprimanding, promoting, transferring, indicting or compensating employees based on their sexual orientation (Weichselbaumer, 2003).

Background

Over the past three decades, American legislators and activists at the municipal, state and federal levels have been attempting to popularize the general public policy that requires employers to employ and pay their workers based on their level of productivity and not who they are. A good example of such a policy is the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination of employees based on color, race, sex, origin or religion. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that other noticeable aspects of human identity lie outside this law, which fails to protect employees based on other forms of identities.

Most notably, discrimination against employees perceived to have unique sexual orientations have not been included in the categories of discriminations prohibited under the law (Rimmerman et al., 2010). Fortunately, the last two decades has seen increased efforts to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The federal government under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been formulating laws to protect employees with these sexual orientations (Rimmerman et al., 2010).

Currently, the Employment Non-Discrimi9nation Act of 2009 is under consideration. Moreover, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a statute that aims at banning any form of discrimination against people based on their sexual orientations (Rimmerman et al., 2010). The statute aims at protecting employees from employer-perpetrated discrimination in decision-making procedures such as hiring, compensating or promoting based on the employees’ sexual orientations.

It further prohibits employees from using quotas and other criteria that states the number of employees from such categories. Nevertheless, these laws have not been enacted, making it difficult to protect workers from sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace, especially in states where such laws have not been considered. Noteworthy, more than 20 states in the US have successfully passed individual statutes against discrimination of employees based on their perceived or actual state of sexual orientations.

At the private sector, companies have attempted to enact individual policies to protect LGBT people from sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace. About 88% of the companies in the Fortune 500 category have some implemented non-discrimination policies that include prohibition against sexual orientation discrimination (Rimmerman et al., 2010).

Study problem

Despite these progresses, it is worth noting that sexual orientation discrimination remains a major problem at the workplace. Most employees with LGBT sexual orientations tend to conceal their status due to the fear of discrimination. In addition, even organizations that have effective anti-discrimination policies are likely to suffer from the problem because the manager education and employee awareness policies are not effective, which creates an environment most likely to favor continued discrimination of these individuals.

Proposed research question and hypothesis

The proposed study hypothesizes that the best way of dealing with sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace is not just enacting anti-discrimination laws and policies, but also providing a good environment for educating the managers on the need to encourage disclosure of information about sexual orientation and enlighten their employees to promote understanding amongst them. The study will attempt to answer the following study questions:

Does the disclosure of sexual orientation improve the environment for dealing with sexual orientation discrimination and increase job satisfaction at the workplace?

Does the educating the top managers and disclosure of sexual orientation help in reducing discrimination?

Review of Literature

Over the last three decades, the volume of information about LGBT people and their affairs has increased significantly due to an increasing number of studies conducted in this topic. In particular, the issues of discrimination and the rights of the LGBT people have dominated much of the research studies on sexual orientation. As noted earlier, discrimination of people perceived to belong to the LGBT category is rife in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. Perhaps the most critical issue is the discrimination against the actual or perceived LGBT people at the workplace because it has a direct impact on the affect employees’ welfare as well as the general outcomes of the organization and the industry in general.

Many solutions to the discrimination problem at the workplace have been suggested, legal and policy enactment have been the most significant. Nevertheless, laws and policies cannot be effective if there are no efforts and the will to enforce them at the workplace (Day & Schoenrade, 2007). As such, educating the managers and creating awareness for the need of disclosure of sexual orientation seem to be some of the most effective strategies for fighting sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace.

Various studies have attempted to examine the need for sexual orientation and manager education in reducing discrimination.

The issue of disclosure, often known as “coming out”, has become a topic of debate and research in the recent place. In a study, Griffith and Hebl (2008) attempted to determine whether disclosure of sexual orientation plays a significant role in reducing discrimination against the LGBT people at the workplace. Using a sample of 220 gay and 159 lesbians, Griffith and Hebl (2008) conducted a quantitative study, which indicated that disclosure of sexual orientation increases job satisfaction where the environment allows disclosure with little likelihood of stigmatization.

The research by Day and Schoenrade (2010) attempts to determine the link between the disclosure of employees’ sexual orientations and other factors such as anti-discrimination policies, management support and work related attitudes. It was concluded that companies must integrate LGBT employees through effective education of top managers and the creation of a favorable work environment that allows employees to disclose their sexual orientations. It is worth noting that the researchers considered sexual orientation disclosure as an important and effective strategy for fighting sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace.

The study reveals that contrary to the popular belief, disclosing information about an employee’s sexual orientation is likely to decrease discrimination and increase the employee’s job attitudes. According to this study, educating the top management is the key to fighting discrimination through disclosure of the information about employees’ sexual orientations. The validity of this finding lies in the method used in the study. Day and Schoenrade (2010) used a quantitative study by examining employees identified gays and lesbians in real organizations. The study embarked on the “lived experiences” of gay and lesbian employees in the organizations.

Wright, Colgan, Creegany and McKearney (2006) supported similar opinions in a study carried out in the UK. Using a quantitative study involving LGBT employees, trade union representatives and top management in 16 organizations across the country, the study indicated that more than half of the LGBT employees in all the 16 organizations were willing disclose their sexual orientations. In addition, it indicated that the disclosure is likely to increase job satisfaction and discrimination.

The study also indicated that the disclosure could only be effective when there is a favorable environment, which is created by educating top managers and involving trade unions in decision-making procedures. The use of 16 companies as case studies reveals the evidence that the findings are valid across different industries in the country. It is an indication that most LGBT employees are willing to disclose their sexual orientation at the workplace in order to find comfort and reduce the chances of being targets of discriminations (Day & Schoenrade, 2009).

References

Day, N. E., & Schoenrade, P. (2007). Staying in the closet versus coming out: Relationships between communication about sexual orientation and work attitudes. Personnel Psychology, 50(1), 147-163.

Day, N. E., & Schoenrade, P. (2010). The relationship among reported disclosure of sexual orientation, anti‐discrimination policies, top management support and work attitudes of gay and lesbian employees. Personnel Review, 29(3), 346 – 363.

Griffith, K. H., & Hebl, M. R. (2008). The disclosure dilemma for gay men and lesbians: “Coming out” at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(6), 1191-1199.

Rimmerman, C. A., Wald, K., & Wilcox, C. (2010). The Politics of Gay Rights. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press

Weichselbaumer, D. (2003). Sexual orientation discrimination in hiring. Labour Economics, 10(6), 629-642.

Wright, T., Colgan, F., Creegany, C., & McKearney, A. (2006). Lesbian, gay and bisexual workers: equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Equal Opportunities International, 25(6), 465 – 470.

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"Sexual Orientation Discrimination Issue at the Workplace." IvyPanda, 20 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-discrimination-issue-at-the-workplace/.

1. IvyPanda. "Sexual Orientation Discrimination Issue at the Workplace." July 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-discrimination-issue-at-the-workplace/.


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IvyPanda. "Sexual Orientation Discrimination Issue at the Workplace." July 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-discrimination-issue-at-the-workplace/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Sexual Orientation Discrimination Issue at the Workplace." July 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-discrimination-issue-at-the-workplace/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Sexual Orientation Discrimination Issue at the Workplace'. 20 July.

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