Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation in Work-Life

Summary of the research project:

Hiring decisions do not always depend on the applicants’ qualification level – they are also determined by their sexual orientation, gender, and ethnicity. Discrimination based on social identity categories – focusing sexual orientation mainly in this project – is forbidden in Germany by the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) (2006). From an individual’s perspective, discrimination can be a hurtful experience, including mental health issues and a lower level of life and job satisfaction. From an economic perspective, companies should be interested in hiring the most qualified applicants.

In our research project we aim to explain processes that can influence discrimination based on sexual orientation in the labor market. Specifically, we are interested whether heterosexual and lesbian/gay receive equal chances in hiring decisions, when they have identical qualifications. We use an experimental approach to answer this research question. For instance, participants read the application material of a fictitious applicant and are asked to rate him/her on task competence, social skills, and chances of employment. Because the applicants only differ in their sexual orientation and have identical qualifications, we know that raters’ stereotypes about the sexual orientation influenced the decisions.

These ratings are related to participants’ beliefs about traditional masculinity and femininity and influence impression formation processes. Because these beliefs underlie a permanent social change, we investigate attitudes towards lesbians and gay men.

Further, we are interested how discrimination based on sexual orientation interacts with other social identity categories: With an intersectional focus, we are interested about impression formation processes when a person has more than one stigmatized social identities. This research approach assumes that experiences of discrimination do not add up. Instead, it assumes a complex interaction between them. In several experiments, we additionally manipulated the ethnicity to investigate whether applicants with a name of German or Turkish origin are perceived differently.



Claudia Niedlich

Project Management:

Melanie Steffens