Many LGBTQ workers in Tennessee might nod their heads in agreement when they learn about the findings of a survey conducted by Glassdoor, an online workplace review site. Out of the 6,104 adults who responded to the survey, 47% believed that revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity at work could damage their careers. These people worried about missing out on promotions, being sidelined from projects, or outright job termination.
Many respondents acknowledged that they conceal or partially conceal their true selves on the job. Among LGBTQ workers, 53% reported witnessing or being the target of negative comments from co-workers. Comments of an anti-LGBTQ character took the form of statements like opposition to same-sex marriage or calling things “gay”.
Workplace protection from sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination can be slim. Only 24 states have laws that recognize the workplace rights of these groups of workers. At the federal level, members of the U.S. House of Representatives have tried to strengthen workplace discrimination laws with the passage of the The Equality Act. The Senate, however, will probably fail to approve it. At the time of the act’s passage in the House, 161 corporate employers expressed their support for the legislation.
Although reforms continue to percolate at the federal level, a person harmed by workplace discrimination must act within existing laws. A consultation with an attorney could reveal options for addressing mistreatment at work motivated by bigoted attitudes. Legal representation might prevent an employer from sweeping someone’s complaint under the rug or retaliating. An attorney could prepare a formal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if the situation does not improve.