Discrimination Of Sexual Minorities In Work Environments

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For the past few years, the LGBTQ+ community has been making groundbreaking progress towards being accepted in the United States for the past few years. For example, in 2014 the Supreme Court ruled to have same-sex marriage legalized in the across all 50 states. However, sexual minorities continue to face hardships in another area, the workplace. Everyday millions of LGBTQ+ employees across America face discrimination in their jobs from their coworkers, bosses, and clients. This constant discrimination and mistreatment can have great effects on the LGBTQ+ workers in their jobs and in their personal lives.

Dan Ispas, Associate Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University, conducts many studies on the workplace and the issues that occur within. Educated at the University of South Florida in Tampa, he earned his Ph.D in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Ispas conducts test on difference aspects of workers careers and their well-being mentally. Ispas research includes three main areas of the workplace: individual differences, job performance/personnel selection and career/employment issues. Ispas studies how individual differences effects not only workers but also students. In his studies, he discusses how someone’s attitude about themselves affects our professionally and academically. Job performance and personnel analyzed testing, motivation, and cognitive predictors in the workplace. Finally, Ispas looks at overqualification and unemployment, and mentoring when research career/employment issues. In all of his studies, Ispas looks at both gender and sexual (i.e. homosexuals) minorities, war veterans, and international participants.

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Dan Ispas along with two fellow Professors from Illinois State University, Dr. Eros R. DeSouza and Associate Professor Eric D. Wesselmann, conducted a research study of how sexual minorities are discriminated against in the workplace. The journal titled Workplace Discrimination against Sexual Minorities: Subtle and not-so-subtle, two main types of social experiences that negatively effects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers (LGBT), microaggressions and ostracism (DeSouza, Ispas, & Wesselmann, 2017). Microaggressions, as defined by Kevin L. Nadal, author and professor, “‘brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults toward members of oppressed groups’ (Nadal, 2008, p.23).” In other words, microaggressions are any act that may seem innocent but can cause major psychological harm to the victim. Ostracism is defined as omitting or “leaving out” specific groups of people (DeSouza et al., 2017). Both microaggressions and ostracism causes victims to feel alienated, powerless and anger. Due to these feelings, LGBT workers are forced to either hide their sexuality or pretend that they are heterosexual to avoid discrimination. These decision to hide cause LGBT workers mental health to decrease and lower productivity and wages among the workers.(Sears & Mallory, 2014). To combat these effects and to ensure the feeling of safety amongst sexual minorities in the workplace, companies should implement policies that protect LGBT employees from any type of discrimination (DeSouza et al., 2017). In a study conducted by Laura G. Barron, from the U.S. Airforce Management, and Michelle Hebl, Psychology professor at Rice University, they found that when antidicrimination policies were implemented, direct discrimination towards sexual minorites decreased (Barron and Hebl, 2013). Also companies can make efforts to train their non-LGBT workers on sexual diversity in the workplace which would help further a feeling of security amongst LGBT workers.

In an article published by Philadelphia Magazine, Philly Employers: Here’s What Your LGBTQ+ Employees Need From You (2019) by Samuel Trilling, one of the interviewed employees expressed how every company should have LGBTQ+ training. In their words, “‘We are everywhere in every field, and it is a shame that we have to seek out known LGBTQ+ companies in order to fulfill our occupational goals’”(Trilling, para. 8). This training and antidiscrimination policies in the workplace would mean the world to sexual minorities. All of the interviewees expressed how in their respective workplaces they were made uncomfortable about the orientation and even some of their employees would purposefully use the wrong pronouns towards them. This article comes after the news that the Supreme Court of the United States would be review three cases about discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in their places of employment. Even though the Supreme court already ruled same-sex couples the right to marry in 2015 it failed to protect them from any discrimination they might recieve (Trilling, 2019). Due to this lack of protection, these employees have reported having to hide their orientation and when ever they discuss it at work the are told by their non-LGBT coworkers that the conversation is unprofessional (Trilling, 2019). They are harassed, mistreated, and sat apart from other employees. Many LGBT workers have tried to look for work in LGBT friendly businesses to feel more comfortable, but, not every “friendly” business is “friendly”.

Equality and acceptance of sexual minorities is just as important as equality and acceptance of racial minorities. Microaggressions and ostracism have great psychological and physical effects on its victims that can spill over into their personal and home lives. Most heterosexual employees may not understand how these things effect their LGBTQ+ counterparts, which is why training should be implimented to non-LGBTQ+ employees. Everyone needs to have an understanding of each other to prevent discrimination against any type of minority, no matter how much they go against social norms.


  1. Barron,L.G., & Hebl, M. (2013). The force law: The effects of sexual orientation antidiscrimination legistation on interpersonal discrimination in employment. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 19, 191-205.
  2. DeSouza, E. R., Wesselmann, E. D., & Ispas, D. (2017). Workplace Discrimination Against Sexual Minorities: Subtle and Not-so-subtle. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 34, 121-132. DOI: 10.1002/CJAS.1438
  3. Nadal, K. L. (2008). Preventing racial, ethnic, gender, sexual minority, disability, and religious microaggressions: Recommendations for promoting positive mental health. Prevention in Counseling Psychology: Theory, Research, Practice and Training, 2, 22-27.
  4. Sears, B., & Mallory, C. (2014). Employment discrimination against LGBT people: Existence and impac. In C. M. Duffy & D. M. Visconti (Eds.), Gender identity and sexual orientation discrimantion in the workplace (Chapter 40, pp. 1-19). Arlington, VA: Bloomberg BNA.
  5. Trilling, S. (2019, October 8). Listen Up, Philly Employers: Here's What Your LGBTQ Employees Need From You. Retrieved from https://www.phillymag.com/business/2019/10/08/lgbtq-workplace-needs-philadelphia/.
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