Survey Finds Support for Equal Workplace Benefits

September 29, 2004 ( - While it may still be a fight for gay and lesbian workers to get equal benefits for their partners, a new survey found that heterosexuals may be more comfortable working with a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) boss or co-worker.

The Out & Equal Workplace Advocates survey found that 49% of heterosexuals said they either somewhat or strongly disagree with the statement “I would be uncomfortable if my boss were openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” according to a news release. More than half (54%) of heterosexuals somewhat or strongly disagree with the same statement when applied to co-workers. When the option “strongly disagree” was isolated (38% for “boss” and 43% for co-worker), it appears that heterosexuals are not only increasingly more accepting of GLBTs in the workplace, but feel somewhat stronger about it, according to the announcement.

Not only that, 69% of heterosexual adults “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed that employees should be judged on their performance and not based on their gender identity or expression.

While equal benefits for same-sex partners continue to be an explosive political issue across the country, the Out and Equal survey found a sizable amount of support for it. More than half of heterosexuals (55%) feel that married spouses and same-sex partners should receive the same adoption assistance, such as counseling and financial benefits offered by many employers.

The survey also showed a majority of heterosexuals believe that same-sex partners of employees should be treated equally for workplace benefits that are usually extended automatically to the married spouses of employees, including:

  • Tax-free health insurance benefits (67%)
  • Health insurance coverage under COBRA when an employee leaves a job (66%)
  • Relocation expenses when their spouse/partner is transferred by their employer (65%)
  • Leave benefits for employees who experience the loss of a spouse/partner or close family member (78%)
  • Seven in ten (70%) heterosexuals agree that the leave rights for family and medical emergencies (as outlined in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act) should apply equally to employees’ married spouses and same-sex partners.

When Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in May 2004, other states introduced legislation that could potentially prevent companies from offering the same health benefits to partners of gay and lesbian employees as it does to the spouses of their married employees. When asked what impact the passage of legislation within a particular state that prevented companies from offering health benefits equally to the spouses as well as same-sex partners of all employees could have on a company’s ability to retain and recruit the most qualified employees, 62% of heterosexuals said the impact would be “moderate” to “a great deal.”

For the third consecutive year, Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive teamed to conduct the survey. Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is a non-profit organization that provides support and advocacy for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community in the workplace.