Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Broadening Partner Benefits to Improve Recruitment and Retention among Lgbt Employees in United States Institutions of Higher Education

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Broadening Partner Benefits to Improve Recruitment and Retention among Lgbt Employees in United States Institutions of Higher Education

Article excerpt

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) population has become increasingly noticeable in discussions of diversity and equality, especially as diversity management has allowed for consideration of the fate of different populations after the hiring stage, including variations in humankind and any identifiable varying traits (Cox, 1993; Ewoh, 2013). Even though population-based studies often do not include questions about sexual orientation or gender identity, it is generally thought that between 8.2 to 8.7 million United States citizens identify as LGB citizens (transgender numbers are less well-known), or between 3.5 to 3.7 percent of the population (Gates, 2015). Recent developments include an increased acceptance of same-sex marriage, the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, Section 3), the strike-down by the Supreme Court of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (Pub. L. 104-199), in the case United States v. Windsor (570 U.S. ___ 2013), and California's state constitutional marriage amendment (Proposition 8, 2008), and many state marriage amendments ruled unconstitutional in federal district courts. The discourse surrounding LGBT diversity and equality is likely to continue in both cultural and court discussions.

The United States higher education field also is replete with examples related to LGBT equality. Many universities offer domestic partner benefits, which include insurance and any other benefits available to married spouses that are also extended to same-sex domestic partners. However, other universities deny domestic partner benefits to their LGBT employees. This situation is revealing and prompts several questions. Why are some universities more successful with domestic partner benefits than others? Despite advancements for the LGBT population, how can public organizations without statewide marriage equality or equal rights for the LGBT population compete for the best and most qualified employees? If the public sector purports to represent all people, does the existence of domestic partner benefits improve recruitment from the LGBT population?

Theory suggests that domestic partner benefits improve recruitment and retention by enhancing LGBT employee voice, equity, and economic considerations. Drawing on semi- structured questionnaires and interviews with human resources personnel at several public and private universities, this study examines the effects that the availability of domestic partner benefits have on recruitment and retention of LGBT employees in public organizations. This study also examines whether recruitment alternatives to domestic partner benefits, often referred to as "soft benefits," have an effect on LGBT employment and retention.

This paper is divided into five parts. The first part reviews the literature to discuss the relationship between LGBT employees and organizational diversity. It also reviews problems that may be faced by LGBT employees and the theories that may shed light on the nature of those problems. The second part introduces the research questions and a theoretical framework related to the availability of domestic partner benefits and overall recruitment and retention. The third part describes the methodology and the data collection process, and reports results. The fourth part analyzes and interprets the data. Finally, the paper considers future research paths and how this research contributes to the overall conversation related to LGBT recruitment and retention.


Some problems related to LGBT representation in public organizations have a historical basis. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 aimed to ensure that representative bureaucracy occurred, meaning that the federal workforce was representative of increasing diversity occurring in the United States. Representative bureaucracy posits that if the government reflects the vast demographic differences in the nations, citizens' values and wishes will be ensured. …

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