Some of the findings of a recent study from the law school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) regarding LGBT discrimination in Pennsylvania likely will come as no surprise to the state’s roughly half a million LGBT adults and young people. Among these findings is that discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity are still prevalent in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Almost half of working LGBT Pennsylvanians reported that they have experienced harassment and/or discrimination. Over a third said they’ve sought other employment because of either how they personally were treated or because they felt uncomfortable in their workplace. Eleven percent said they’d quit their job because of how they’d been treated.
Sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t protected classes under Pennsylvania law, and they’re not specifically protected under federal law. Some Pennsylvania cities have ordinances protecting one or both in employment and other areas. Sexual orientation has been a protected class in the city of Pittsburgh for over thirty years.
The effects of discrimination on finances and health
The effects of discrimination and harassment on people’s financial stability can be seen in the data around annual household incomes. Over a quarter of LGBT Pennsylvanians have a reported annual income of less than $24,000, while a similar number reported not having adequate money to buy food. Both of these numbers were considerably higher than for non-LGBT adults. Unemployment rates are double that of non-LGBT people in our state.
The effects of discrimination can be seen in people’s physical and mental health. LGBT Pennsylvanians are more than twice as likely to have diagnosed depressive disorders and nearly twice as likely to report engaging in dangerous behaviors like smoking and binge drinking.
Discrimination doesn’t just harm the victims of the discrimination. According to the UCLA study, the effect on Pennsylvania’s economy is a loss of tens of millions of dollars annually.
If you’re facing discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s crucial to find out what your rights are. While walking away from the situation might seem like the easiest – and perhaps the only – choice, it’s not. Consider seeking legal guidance, instead.