Employment Discrimination against Bisexuals and Others with Fluid Identities
Ann E. Tweedy
Hamline University School of Law
Karen M. Yescavage
Colorado State University, Pueblo
July 24, 2013
This paper discusses the results of an online survey we conducted of bisexuals and others with fluid identities concerning employment discrimination. Although bisexuals are believed to be the largest sexual minority group in the United States, there is currently very little data on the extent to which bisexuals face employment discrimination. However, it is known that bisexuals, particularly bisexual women, tend to have worse physical and mental health outcomes than heterosexuals and, in some respects, gays and lesbians. Furthermore, both bisexual men and women experience higher rates of suicide ideation than gay or heterosexual men and lesbians or heterosexual women, respectively. Bisexuals also face considerable prejudice from both heterosexual and gay and lesbian groups. It is hoped that this empirical study will further a broader understanding of existing prejudice against bisexuals and their legal needs in the workplace. Despite bisexuals’ physical and mental health challenges and the known social discrimination that bisexuals face, there appear to be very few sexual orientation discrimination cases brought by bisexual plaintiffs. Indeed, in a recent search, we only found three ases involving bisexual plaintiffs who were suing for sexual orientation discrimination under state laws that protect against such discrimination.
In conducting the survey, we defined discrimination broadly and asked respondents to report on their experiences with sexual orientation discrimination of a variety of different types. We distributed the survey by email to bisexual organizations, LGBT organizations, and listservs relating to sexual orientation and polyamory and also sent the link to individuals we knew. One hundred and seventeen self-identified bisexuals responded. They reported significant levels of employment discrimination, with slightly over fifty percent reporting at least one experience with sexual orientation-based employment discrimination at some point in their lives. The most common types of discrimination reported were inappropriate jokes or insults, verbal sexual harassment, unfair access to fringe benefits, and verbal harassment based on sexual identity. About thirty-seven percent of bisexual – identified respondents reported that the most recent incident of discrimination occurred between one and five years ago, and just about fifteen percent reported that it occurred more than ten years ago. Despite the apparent prevalence of employment discrimination among our respondents, under ten percent of them reported that they filed any kind of complaint, including an internal complaint. Moreover, about forty-five percent of those who did not file a complaint cited a concern that they would not get the assistance they needed as one of the reasons. This reason may itself be based on feelings of stigma.
The article explains how this study relates to other existing research and suggests measures to improve the law so that it’s more responsive to the needs of bisexuals.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: employment discrimination, bisexual, LGBT, fluid identity, pansexual, lesbian, gay, state law, survey, law & psychology, psychology, access to justice
JEL Classification: C00, C10, C42, D21, D63, J71, L50, M14working papers series
Date posted: July 26, 2013 ; Last revised: August 13, 2013
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