About half of all LGBTQ people who work in education and law enforcement are not out to their supervisors.


Over 600,000 LGBTQ employees are currently employed nationwide by state and local governments. One in five LGBTQ employees has worked in state or local government at some point in their careers, including nine percent who have worked solely in state and local government jobs.


A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds more than one in four (28 percent) of LGBTQ state and local government employees have experienced discrimination or harassment at work. This includes being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


Using survey data collected in May 2021, researchers examined experiences of employment discrimination and harassment against LGBTQ people working for state and local governments.


Results indicate that religious beliefs often underlie discrimination and harassment even in government jobs. Among LGBTQ employees who have experienced mistreatment in the workplace, 85 percent of state and local government employees said that it was motivated by the employer’s religious beliefs. In contrast, 53 percent of LGBTQ employees who have worked only in private sector jobs said that religious beliefs motivated the unfair treatment against them. 


“Despite stronger legal protections for LGBTQ public sector employees, patterns of discrimination and harassment in state and local government workplaces mirror those observed in private sector employment,” said lead author Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “As in the private sector, discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ state and local government workers is widespread and pervasive.”

Additional findings in the survey show that as many as 28 percent of LGBTQ employees who have worked in state or local government reported experiencing discrimination or harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.

About one in ten LGBTQ employees reported being fired (11 percent) and/or not hired (nine percent) by a state or local government employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of LGBTQ state or local government employees reported verbal harassment at work, nine percent reported sexual harassment, and eight percent reported physical harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

One-third (35 percent) of LGBTQ employees who work for state or local government employers have looked for other jobs because of how they were treated based on their LGBTQ status and/or because the workplace was uncomfortable for LGBTQ people. 

Among those who have experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace, a majority (85 percent) of LGBTQ employees who have worked only in state or local government jobs said the unfair treatment they experienced was motivated by religious beliefs.

As much as 63 percent of LGBTQ employees currently employed by state or local governments are not open about being LGBTQ to their supervisor and 30 percent are not out to any of their co-workers, while around half of LGBTQ people who have worked in K-12 education (49 percent), higher education (55 percent), or law enforcement (54 percent) are not out to their current supervisor.

About one-quarter of LGBTQ employees who have worked in K-12 education (25 percent), higher education (22 percent), or law enforcement (26 percent) are not out to any of their co-workers. 

While it may seem a drastic self-betrayal, 42 percent of LGBTQ state and local government employees have confirmed taking steps to change their appearance or mannerisms at work, just to avoid discrimination and harassment.

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