The Risk of Being You at Work
Is it wise to come out at work when a majority of the states in the U.S. still don't have sexual orientation protections for queer employees?
The fact is that 28 states still have laws that let employers fire employees simply for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. A shockingly larger number, 31 states, still have laws that let employers fire employees simply for being transgender. For this reason alone, many queer people avoid career choices, such as relocation or job changes, that may suit their skills or passions simply because they cannot afford to put themselves in an environment in which they risk losing their job simply for being queer.
The Financial Reality of Soft Discrimination
Many industries are still surrounded by white, patriarchal walls. Minorities, including queers, are tearing down those walls, making the working world a better and more diverse place. Much progress has been made. However, while open discrimination wanes, soft discrimination remains. Someone who's not part of the "boys' club" does not get the same time and attention of their boss as someone who is.
With all else being equal, queer people are often overlooked for raises and promotions that disrupt long-term earning potential. A recent study showed that gay white men in the U.K. must spend about $54,000 U.S. dollars for additional education and work experience only to have equivalent opportunities and career advancement as their straight, white, male counterparts who don't need to make that additional investment.
Larger companies often progress faster on LGBT issues than most states, but most people don't work for larger companies. This hurts U.S. companies' bottom lines because, per a Goldman Sachs study, people who are comfortable being out at work are 15 percent more productive than those who aren't.
The Queer at Work Solution
On this Queer Money, we talk with former executive vice president of human resources, Jay Allen, and queer advocate, Dave Montez, on how we can overcome queer discrimination in the workplace.