The force of law: Effects of legislation on formal and interpersonal discrimination towards gay and lesbian job applicants
Barron, Laura Gerbasio
Hebl, Michelle R.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
Three studies examine the influence of sexual orientation employment antidiscrimination legislation on sexual orientation prejudice and discrimination, including interpersonal measures of discrimination. Although previous research has found evidence of greater perceived discrimination in areas without anti-discrimination legislation (Ragins & Cornwell, 2001), the causality of the relationship is unclear. Building on previous research we use three different paradigms (resume survey, field study, and lab experiment) that equalize the extent of sexual orientation disclosure with and without legal protections. Additionally, we expand the form of discrimination studied to include not only traditional formal measures but also more subtle, interpersonal measures. We balance internal and external validity concerns by triangulating from (i) a resume study in which human resource managers across the U.S. in areas with and without antidiscrimination legislation evaluate hypothetical matched applicants that differ only in presumed sexual orientation, (ii) a field study in which the same applicants portray themselves as gay (lesbian) or non-gay while applying for retail jobs in neighboring cities with or without legislation, and (iii) a lab experiment in which prior to interviewing a gay or lesbian confederate applicant for a management position, participants are led to believe that their area does or does not have sexual orientation anti-discrimination legislation. We propose that, in combination, we can inform legislative debate with empirically-based research estimates for the likely efficacy of pending national legislation (i.e. ENDA).