The alarming ways the pandemic is hurting America’s queer workers

The coronavirus pandemic has left LGBTQ workers more at risk for mental and physical health issues. Marc Bruxelle / EyeEm
  • Strategic advisory firm Brunswick has been conducting a weekly survey to learn more about US employees’ attitudes regarding the novel coronavirus, as well as their companies’ responses to the pandemic.
  • As Pride month ends, the firm’s most recent survey took a closer look at how the coronavirus has affected LGBTQ workers mentally, physically, and financially compared to all US workers.
  • Their results show LGBTQ workers are more concerned about the spread of the coronavirus than all US workers, and are more likely to report having to work a second job because of a loss of income during this time.
  • Business Insider is launching a newsletter on gender identity and career success. Sign up here to receive Gender at Work in your inbox.
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While everyone is suffering from the economic fallout from the coronavirus, LGBTQ workers have been hit especially hard.

In an exclusive research partnership with Business Insider, business advisory firm Brunswick found that LGBTQ workers are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis when compared to their straight, cisgender colleagues.

The Brunswick report also shows that LGBTQ workers across the country have been more likely to lose their jobs as a result of the economic disruption brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns and social-distancing measures. This has had devastating consequences – from mental and physical health issues to weaker financial stability.

Prior to the pandemic, LGBTQ workers were already more marginalised in the workplace. A study by Glassdoor shows that about half of LGBTQ employees say they have experienced or witnessed discrimination at work.

As many states begin experiencing a new wave of COVID-19 cases, it’s important for managers to create inclusive workplace policies that can support marginalised employees.

LGBTQ workers face more mental and physical health issues

Baker and McKinsey’s LGBTQ+ workplace report shows that queer workers are more likely to face microaggressions, isolation, and discrimination related to their sexual orientation or gender in the workplace.

Before the US Supreme Court banned LGBTQ employment discrimination, a worker could be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. For this reason, some employees do not disclose their LGBTQ status. All of these issues, however, can increase what social scientists call “minority stress,” or the chronically high levels of stress faced by minorities.

Now, the COVID-19 crisis is bringing even more stress to LGBTQ workers. Findings from the Brunswick report shows that 50% of LGBTQ workers say their mental health has gotten worse as a result of the pandemic, compared to 39% of straight, cisgender US workers.

To combat these inequalities, it’s important to provide robust and inclusive workplace policies that support LGBTQ workers. This includes everything from health benefits that cover gender-affirming medical care such as hormone-replacement therapy to having a family-leave policy that treats all parents equally.

And the stress America’s queer community is facing isn’t just in the workplace. The social-support systems that LGBTQ people have fostered outside of work have also been disrupted. For example, when LGBTQ bars shut down due to COVID-19 closures, many queer people lost access to their social spaces, Business Insider reported. Historically, LGBTQ bars have served as a safe haven from anti-queer sentiment.

Beyond work and nightlife, the pandemic has had many ripple effects for LGBTQ Americans. For example, many gender-affirming surgeries were cancelled in March, and queer college students have been forced to live with their unaccepting parents. To combat these issues, companies can create LGBTQ workplace groups that can give workers of marginalised identities a place to talk about their concerns, and communicate them to management, Business Insider reported.

The survey also showed that 31% of LGBTQ workers have faced worsening physical health issues when compared to just 19% of all US workers. What’s more, LGBTQ people are at a heightened risk of getting COVID-19, writes Jill Crank, a nurse practitioner atJohn Hopkins Community Physicians and the John G. Bartlett Specialty Practice. According to Crank, one reason for this could be that LGBTQ people are more likely than the general population to be smokers. This can compromise their lungs and make it more difficult to recover from respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19.

The pandemic has put a burden on people’s finances, especially LGBTQ workers

Mass layoffs, reduced hours, and temporary closures of businesses over the past few months have put a strain on most Americans’ budgets. However, the economic effects of the pandemic have devastated the finances of LGBTQ workers more than overall US workers, according to Brunswick.

Overall, 39% of LGBTQ workers reported their economic situations has become either a little or a lot worse because of the coronavirus, two percentage points higher than the overall US workforce.

Brunswick asked respondents about six specific economic challenges and hardships Americans have faced since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The following chart shows how many LGBTQ workers and overall US workers have experienced those situations. LGBTQ workers reported higher shares across all questions compared to total US workers.

US LGBTQ coronavirus impact 06/29/2020

The largest percentage point difference between LGBTQ workers and the overall workforce was not being able to pay rent or mortgage due to the coronavirus, where the share of respondents for LGBTQ workers was eight percentage points higher than all US workers.

Additionally, the share of respondents who lost some kind of income was similar between LGBTQ workers and all workers, but a larger share of LGBTQ workers reported having to take on another job to make up for lost income during the pandemic at 15%. Of the overall US workforce, only 10% said they had to take on a second job.

The stakes are even higher for transgender employees of colour.A report from the 2015 US transgender survey, the most recent data available, found that unemployment among transgender people of colour was four times higher than joblessness rates for their cisgender colleagues.

NBC News reported a survey conducted by LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign and analytics group PSB Research between April 16 to May 6 that also showed the disproportionate impact on LGBTQ employment during the outbreak. According to this research, 17% of LGBTQ people lost their job as a result of the pandemic, four percentage points greater than the overall population.

Elizabeth Bibi, Human Rights Campaign’s senior communications adviser, told NBC News that their analysis shows that one of the reasons for this drop in employment is because a large share of LGBTQ employees work in at-risk industries that are vulnerable to the economic and health effects of the pandemic, such as restaurant jobs.