LGBT workplace protections as an extension of the protected class framework

Russell L. Steiger, P. J. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Many corporations in the United States have enacted nondiscrimination policies for their LGBT employees, despite that the LGBT community has not been a legally protected class concerning employment discrimination at the national level. We examined whether progressive corporate LGBT-related policies may be an extension of policies and practices designed to foster diversity and create equality for existing legally protected classes (women, ethnic minorities, veterans, and those with disabilities). We also examined whether leadership level diversity (percentage of women and ethnic minorities on company boards of directors) predicted nondiscrimination policies for LGBT employees. Hypotheses: We predicted companies that have been recognized and awarded for protected class diversity policies and that have a greater percentage of women and racial/ethnic minorities on their boards of directors would have more progressive LGBT-related corporate policies. Method: Using a sample of Fortune 500 companies, we examined protected-class diversity awards and percentage of women and racial/ethnic minorities on boards of directors as predictors of LGBT-related policies. At the company-level, we controlled for the average age of board, company size, and company revenue. At the level of company headquarter location, we controlled for political climate, Christian religiosity, and LGBT employment nondiscrimination laws. We also controlled for U.S. region and industry sector. Results: Multilevel modeling results indicated that protected-class diversity awards and the percentage of women on company boards of directors significantly and independently predicted progressive LGBT policy scores, whereas the percentage of racial/ethnic minorities on boards of directors had less consistent results. Conclusion: Companies that address issues of diversity and equality in the workplace have been likely to include the LGBT community among their groups of concern, even in the absence of legal pressures to do so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-265
Number of pages15
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Corporations
  • Discrimination
  • Diversity
  • Gender
  • LGBT
  • Leadership
  • United States
  • Humans
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities/classification
  • Male
  • Organizational Policy
  • Workplace
  • Public Nondiscrimination Policies
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Human Rights
  • Gender Equity
  • Adult
  • Civil Rights/classification
  • Female

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • General Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'LGBT workplace protections as an extension of the protected class framework'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this