Large Numbers of Utah's LGBT Community Suffer Workplace Discrimination


(Courtesy Renna Communications)

Today, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a new research study providing evidence of employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Utah. The study analyzes data from a 2010 survey conducted by Equality Utah, the state’s first survey on employment discrimination against LGBT Utahns. The study shows that substantial percentages of LGBT people in Utah have experienced discrimination and continue to fear discrimination in the workplace.

Using data from the Census Bureau, the study estimates that there are between 32,000 and 43,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people working in Utah. Other data sources suggest that there may be more than 4,700 transgender people living in Utah.

Currently, these Utahns are without state-wide non-discrimination protections. Recent polling has indicated that a majority of Utahns support these protections, and in the past year, several Utah cities and counties have passed local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The new study shows that adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s existing non-discrimination law would be beneficial for employees and employers, while not overburdening the administrative system.
The study found that Utah’s LGBT employees are being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Over 43% of LGB respondents and 66% of transgender respondents to the 2010 survey reported that they had been fired, denied a job, or not promoted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nearly 30% of LGB respondents and 45% of transgender respondents experienced workplace harassment on a weekly basis during the previous year.

The study further found that Utah’s LGBT employees are being discriminated against and harassed even when they do not disclose their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, and many fear that they will be discriminated against by their current employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“These findings address arguments that have been raised in response to efforts to pass laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” explained Clifford Rosky, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor and one of the study’s co-authors. “First, the findings demonstrate that discrimination against LGBT people is not rare. Second, the findings belie the popular belief that employment discrimination only happens when employees ‘flaunt’ their sexual orientation or gender identity at work.”
Discrimination negatively affects employers, as well as employees. Several of Utah’s cities and private employers have already adopted anti-discrimination ordinances and policies protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, suggesting that doing so makes good business sense. Businesses are most successful when they can recruit, hire, and retain employees on the basis of talent, not personal characteristics that do not affect an employee’s ability to perform a job well. Non-discrimination laws and policies can boost employee productivity and satisfaction, and can help businesses recruit and retain the most qualified employees.

The impact on the state administrative agencies resulting from expanding the existing non-discrimination law would be negligible. “Other state agencies’ experiences with enforcing non-discrimination laws shows us that adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Utah’s existing non-discrimination law would not overwhelm the Utah Labor Commission,” said Christy Mallory, study co-author and Williams Institute Legal Research Fellow. “We expect that for every 10,000 LGB employees, 5 complaints of sexual orientation discrimination would be filed each year. In Utah, this would amount to an increase of approximately 16-22 administrative complaints filed with the Commission per year.”
The full report may be found at: http://www.law.ucla.edu/WilliamsInstitute/home.html