Legislation can curb discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment situations

Apr 08, 2013

Antidiscrimination laws can have a significant positive impact on how gays and lesbians are treated in employment situations, according to new research from Rice University. The study on public awareness of sexual-orientation employment-antidiscrimination laws is one of the first to provide empirical evidence for the likely impact of pending antidiscrimination legislation.

"In many U.S. states and localities (including much of Texas), gays and lesbians remain unprotected from employment discrimination," said Laura Barron, a 2008 Rice alumna and now personnel research psychologist for the U.S. Air Force and the study's lead author. "And in the debate over national antidiscrimination legislation, some lawmakers have sought to justify opposition to ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) by suggesting that antidiscrimination legislation would not effectively reduce discrimination if enacted. Our directly dispute this claim."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The study revealed that:

  • Public awareness and support of sexual-orientation laws is heightened in communities with (versus without) antidiscrimination legislation.
  • Gay and lesbian job applicants experience significantly less interpersonal discrimination in areas with (versus without) this protective legislation, even when statistically controlling for religious and .
  • Training that informs interviewers that sexual-orientation employment discrimination is legal or illegal in their community directly affects their treatment of gay and lesbian applicants.
Mikki Hebl, professor of psychology at Rice and the study's co-author, said these findings have important implications for the current on gay rights.

"Given the absence of conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of antidiscrimination laws, many elected officials have been hesitant to support ENDA and similar legislation," she said. "However, with these new findings, we believe that some lawmakers may feel compelled to reconsider their views on this topic."

The study was conducted in three parts.

In the first study, the researchers documented public awareness of sexual-orientation employment-antidiscrimination laws by contacting 111 households by phone in five cities in a major metropolitan area in the southwestern U.S. Two of these cities have citywide sexual-orientation antidiscrimination laws and three do not.

In the second study, study participants (recruited from Rice psychology classes) applied for 295 retail jobs in cities with and without legal protection within the same metropolitan area. The participants were instructed to wear hats that read "Texan and Proud" or "Gay and Proud," but they did not know which hat they were assigned to wear. The participants then entered businesses to inquire about employment opportunities and covertly audio-recorded their conversations with prospective employers. The interactions were evaluated on the basis of perceived friendliness, helpfulness and hostility by the study's participants and independent raters who later reviewed the audio recordings.

In the third study, the researchers conducted a lab experiment to determine if the effects of the second study were the same in a controlled setting free of outside influences. As part of a longer training on interviewing skills, 229 participants were told that employers could or could not legally discriminate based on . The participants then interviewed "applicants" (Rice students) whose resumes listed experience with a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender student organization and receipt of a gay and lesbian student award. The conversations were recorded and evaluated on the same criteria as the second study.

The researchers hope their findings will inform the legislative debate on gay rights by providing on the potential impact of national antidiscrimination legislation.

"This piece of research clearly demonstrates that regardless of your beliefs on gay rights, antidiscrimination legislation can be very effective in reducing interpersonal discrimination," Hebl said.

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: "THE FORCE OF LAW: The Effects of Sexual Orientation Antidiscrimination Legislation on Interpersonal Discrimination in Employment" will appear in an upcoming edition of Psychology, Public Policy and Law and is available online at psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2012-13791-001

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sexual orientation has 'in between' groups, study shows

May 09, 2012

Sexual orientation is best represented as a continuum that has two new categories -- "mostly heterosexual" and "mostly gay/lesbian" -- in addition to heterosexual, bisexual or gay/lesbian, according to a new Cornell study.

Sexual orientation affects cancer survivorship

May 09, 2011

Gay men have a higher prevalence of cancer compared with heterosexual men, and lesbian and bisexual female cancer survivors report lower levels of health than heterosexual female cancer survivors. Those are the conclusions ...

Anti-gay hate crimes widespread

Jul 02, 2007

Nearly four in 10 gay men and about one in eight lesbians and bisexuals in the United States have been the target of violence or a property crime because of their sexual orientation, according to a new study by University ...

Is coming out always a good thing?

Jun 20, 2011

Coming out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual increases emotional well-being even more than earlier research has indicated. But the psychological benefits of revealing one's sexual identity -- less anger, less depression, and higher ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...