chapter  12
16 Pages

The Dark Side of the Rainbow: A Research Model of Occupational Stress and Lesbian, Gay and Bisexuals (LGBs) in the Workplace

ByMarilyn J. Davidson

In the UK it had been estimated that lesbian, gay and bisexuals (LGBs) constitute 7 percent of the population, with 1.7 million in the workforce (Stonewall 2009) and 150,000 LGB students in UK universities (Valentine, Wood and Plummer 2009). Moreover, Griffith and Hebl (2002) maintain that LGBs constitute a higher 10-14 percent of the US workforce. However, anti-discrimination legislation protecting LGBs varies in countries around the world with European countries, North America and Australasia making the most progress (Swan and Mazur 2002). In 2000 for example, the European Union (EU) issued an Employment Directive requiring EU member states to protect employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. This was followed in 2003 by a change in the UK law also making it illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their sexual orientation (Pillinger 2008). To date, £120,000 is the largest sum awarded in Britain for sexual orientation discrimination, with no limit to the amount that can be rewarded (Stonewall 2009). Nevertheless, despite various initiatives both in the US by Catalyst (Megathlin 2007) and in Europe and the UK (Creed 2005) to create more diverse and equitable workforces for LGBs, inequalities still exist. Even in these more enlightened countries, evidence suggests that many LGBs continue to experience harrowing levels of discrimination, harassment, isolation, inequality and homophobia in the workplace and often face enormous fears about disclosing their sexual orientation and experience high levels of occupational stress (EHRC 2009, Pillinger 2008). In their recent report entitled Beyond Tolerance – Making Sexual Orientation a Public Matter, the UK Equality and Humans Rights Commission (EHRC) concluded: ‘The challenges that remain are not just centred

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on public attitudes. New research for the Commission indicates that homophobia still significantly impacts on the lives of LGB men and women and remains entrenched within institutions and communities’ (EHRC, 2009: 5).