UCLA’s Williams Institute Releases New Study Examining Employment Discrimination Against LGBT People in Oklahoma and Analyzing the Impact of Adding Sexual Orientation to Existing Non-Discrimination in the State

LOS ANGELES – Today, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a new research study providing evidence of employment discrimination against LGBT people in Oklahoma. The new study also shows that adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Oklahoma’s existing non-discrimination laws would be beneficial for employees and employers, while not overburdening the administrative system.

The study estimates that there are between 43,000 and 57,000 LGB people working in Oklahoma, along with as many as 6,800 transgender people. Several sources of data demonstrate that LGBT Oklahomans face harassment and discrimination in the workplace because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. For instance, a survey of LBGT people in Tulsa revealed that 22 percent had experienced employment discrimination because of their sexual orientation. National surveys also find that large percentages of LGBT people report discrimination in the workplace.

Discrimination has many negative effects that may affect income. According to Census Bureau data, men in same-sex couples in Oklahoma face an earnings gap, earning 26% less than married men. Employment discrimination also hurts businesses. When LGBT employees fear discrimination in the workplace, they hide their identity, have less job-satisfaction, and are less productive.

“Laws that provide protection from discrimination not only benefit employees, but also help businesses recruit and retain highly-skilled employees,” explains study co-author Lee Badgett, Research Director of the Williams Institute and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

A number of Oklahoma-based corporations, including Devon Energy Corp., OKEOK Inc., Williams Companies Inc., and OGE Energy Corp., have already adopted such policies.

The estimated impact on the state administrative agencies resulting from expanding the existing non-discrimination law is negligible. “Considering the experience of states that have already adopted non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT employees, we do not expect that such a law in Oklahoma would overwhelm state agencies or the courts,” said Christy Mallory, study co-author and Williams Institute Legal Research Fellow. The study finds that expanding Oklahoma’s non-discrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity will result in an estimated increase in filings of 21-29 complaints per year.

The full report may be found at: http://www2.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/home.html

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