Fostering LGBTQ+ Inclusion: Legal Policies and Strategies for Workplace Equality
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Today, more than 7% of the US population identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community; according to a survey conducted by Gallup, this number is more than double the percentage from 10 years earlier. The number significantly rises when we look at the rest of the world, as there is a growing representation of people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and the “+,” categories which symbolize the inclusion of other identities such as intersex and asexual.
With the steady increase in the diversification of the LGBTQ+ community, businesses must recognize the need to create a safe, supportive, and inclusive workplace for everyone. With June being the month of Pride celebrations, it’s a great reminder that this includes individuals with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
Fortunately, leading businesses worldwide have already taken cognizance of the need to promote diversity in the workplace. Still, the question remains at the center of the discussion: Are all minority groups included in the diversity paradigm?
We at VDart believe in and celebrate the rich tapestry of diversity, embrace the power of inclusivity, and create boundless opportunities where everyone can shine and thrive, irrespective of whom they love or how they identify. However, we are aware of the multitude of challenges often faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace, including-
- Discriminatory hiring practices
- Unequal treatment and benefits
Lack of inclusive work policies
- Outing and privacy concerns
- Limited career opportunities
Given these challenges, individuals must know their rights and the laws that protect LGBTQ+ individuals. Let’s dive in and better understand the laws and policies put in place to protect necessary fundamental human rights.
Legal Policies that Protect LGBTQ Workforce:
Please note that each state has its local laws which protect the rights of the citizens. The federal laws included below mean these protections apply even if state or local laws take a different position.
1. Protection from Workplace Discrimination Based on Sex
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees and job applicants from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, gender orientation, or nationality. This makes it unlawful for an employer to treat you differently/less favorably because of your sex and prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes about abilities associated with gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.
*If you think you have been discriminated against or are struggling with harassment in the workplace because of your sex, please contact law agencies or attorneys near you.
Here are some examples of what sex discrimination and harassment look like:
- Refusing to hire you because you are gay or transgender
- Intentionally and repeatedly using the wrong name and pronouns to refer to a transgender employee
- Firing someone because they are married to someone of the same sex
- Passing a person over for a promotion because of their gender identity
- Demoting a woman when she starts showing during a pregnancy
- Questioning a man / transgender man’s abilities
2. Protection Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law designed to help working parents and other caregivers balance work and family.
FMLA guarantees workers at large employers unpaid leave to recover from a severe health condition, bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member or address certain needs related to a family member’s military service. LGBTQ+ workers have gained new rights under the FMLA and now will be able to take leave under the law to care for a same-sex spouse, regardless of where they live.
3. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
The EEOC is a government agency that ensures people aren’t mistreated at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The EEOC also states employers can’t refuse to serve customers or clients who are LGBTQ+. and can’t segregate employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, even if they think that’s what their customers or clients want.
If you think you’ve been discriminated against at work because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, start here with EEOC for information on how to file a complaint and ensure your rights are protected.
Promoting Inclusivity in the Workforce for LGBTQ+ Employees:
Five must-haves for creating an inclusive workforce:
1. Develop and Maintain Effective Non-Discrimination Policies:
To promote an inclusive, healthy work environment, implement comprehensive policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The HR department should ensure that these policies are communicated to all employees and ensure that they are shared with the employees in employee portals, community groups, breakout rooms, and more.
VDart has a specific non-discriminatory policy that states that – we are committed to creating a workplace where all employees are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.
2. Provide Diversity and Inclusion Training:
Training is an effective tool to promote awareness to educate employees about LGBTQ+ issues, including appropriate language, respectful behavior, and awareness of unconscious biases to promote a culture of respect and understanding.
3. Establish an LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group:
Encourage and support the formation of an employee resource group (ERG) for LGBTQ+ employees. ERGs provide a platform for networking, support, allies, and advocacy within the organization so people can be open about who they are and embrace their true selves.
4. Offer Comprehensive Benefits:
To help more employees feel included, review and revise employee benefits packages to include LGBTQ+ employees and their families. This may include equal access to healthcare, inclusive parental leave policies, and transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage.
5. Foster an Inclusive Culture:
An organization is a reflection of its leaders, and to create a more inclusive workforce, leadership can encourage and lend support to the community by visibly demonstrating support to LGBTQ+ events, such as participating in Pride Month marches, hiring LGBTQ+ workforce, lending a voice and support on social media, creating allyship and building an inclusive growth circle for everyone that reflects diversity openly.
We must remember inclusivity is not just a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment. It requires continuous education, awareness, and action. Together, let’s celebrate the beauty of diversity in all its forms, creating a workplace where everyone can shine and be proud of who they are.
As Harvey Milk, the pioneering LGBT rights activist, once said, “Hope will never be silent.” Let us strive together to break the silence, dismantle barriers, and build a future where every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can thrive and contribute to the workplace with their unique talents and perspectives.
References and additional resources that you may find helpful:
EEOC website:( https://www.eeoc.gov/)
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center: (https://www.nsvrc.org/)
The Human Rights Campaign:( https://www.hrc.org/)