Employment Discrimination Against Bisexuals: An Empirical Study

45 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2013 Last revised: 17 May 2015

Ann E. Tweedy

University of Tulsa College of Law

Karen M. Yescavage

Colorado State University, Pueblo

Date Written: July 24, 2013

Abstract

This paper discusses the results of an online survey the authors 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. 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.

In conducting the survey, the authors defined employment discrimination broadly and asked respondents to report on their experiences with workplace sexual orientation discrimination. 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. Additionally, several themes emerged from open-ended questions, including firing due to bisexuality, hypersexualization of bisexual employees by others, discrimination by lesbian and gay co-workers and supervisors, and discrimination by religious persons and organizations. Despite the apparent prevalence of employment discrimination among our respondents, only six of them had 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 concludes that employment discrimination against bisexuals is a formidable problem and suggests measures to improve the law, advocacy for LGBT rights, and employment environments so that they all become more responsive to the needs of bisexuals.

Keywords: employment discrimination, bisexual, LGBT, fluid identity, pansexual, lesbian, gay, LGB, state law, survey, law & psychology, psychology, access to justice, workplace discrimination, sexual orientation, invisibility, sexual identity, empirical, stereotypes, bisexuality, harassment, sexual harassment

JEL Classification: C00, C10, C42, D21, D63, J71, L50, M14

Suggested Citation

Tweedy, Ann E. and Yescavage, Karen M., Employment Discrimination Against Bisexuals: An Empirical Study (July 24, 2013). William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, vol. 21, p.699 (2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2297924 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2297924

Ann E. Tweedy (Contact Author)

University of Tulsa College of Law ( email )

3120 E. Fourth Place
Tulsa, OK 74104
United States

Karen M. Yescavage

Colorado State University, Pueblo ( email )

2200 Bonforte Blvd
Pueblo, CO 81001
United States

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