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Study finds it harmful to be closeted at work

Study finds it harmful to be closeted at work

LAST UPDATED // Sunday, 13 November 2011 21:49

The Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) is concerned over continuing discrimination in many workplaces, after a recent major US study found almost half of LGBT respondents interviewed reported being closeted at work, with resulting substantial negative consequences.

It comes as the latest statistics from the Fair Work Ombudsman show there has been a 46 per cent increase in the number of complaints received by the body in the last financial year.

The study conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy which featured in the Harvard Business Review in July of this year, found that for almost 3,000 LGBT employees interviewed, 48 per cent reported not being open about their sexual orientation at work, making them 70 per cent likely to leave their current company within the next three years.

The researchers found that closeted workers suffer anxiety about how colleagues and managers might judge them and expend enormous effort concealing their orientation, which leaves them less energy for actual work.

DCA CEO, Nareen Young, fears LGBT employees in Australia may be likely to suffer from similar experiences and has encouraged employers do more to help workers feel more comfortable to be themselves.

“DCA’s Working for the Future research found 16 per cent of gay men and lesbians said they had been discriminated against at work on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“This is a high figure compared to the percentage of respondents overall who felt they had been discriminated against in the past year [a total of 10 per cent],” Young said.

“No-one should have to hide who they really are at work for fear of being judged, harassed or excluded. In this day and age, there’s no excuse for homophobic behaviour.”

Meanwhile, the Fair Work Ombudsman has assessed 1171 complaints relating to workplace discrimination in the past financial year, up from 801 complaints in 2009-10.

According to the released figures, eight per cent of total complaints related to alleged discrimination on the basis of sex, while only two per cent related to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The most common complaint was alleged discrimination on the grounds of physical or mental disability, totalling 20 per cent of all recorded complaints, while complaints over age, and carer and family responsibilities ranked second and third.


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