Today still over half the U.S. states lack full legal protection for LGBTQ people. Regardless of politics or laws in the state you do business, companies large and small can take positive action to protect their LGBTQ employees by celebrating diversity, inclusion and creating a welcoming work environment. Studies have shown that companies that support and promote an LGBTQ inclusive work-culture thrive and their bottom line benefits. With 72% of LGBT people experience mental health issues due to their work environment your actions can make a huge difference in your employee’s lives. We hope to be a spark for your company to embrace inclusion and diversity for your current and future LGBTQ employees while reducing your risk exposure. Did you know that a recent study found that 29% of American’s under 30 years old consider themselves hetero-flexible? Having LGBTQ friendly policies and work culture has far-reaching impact on your entire talent base. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this article for 12 more steps to demonstrate your LGBTQ inclusive work culture.
Below is a list of the 4 common LGBTQ workplace equality issues along with thoughts on how to solve them:
#1 – Health Insurance Does Not Cover Domestic or Same-Sex Partners
Having basic healthcare is the foundation of benefits all employees seek. A significant portion of American heterosexual employees who have access to health insurance through their employers also have access to opposite-sex spousal/common-law spouse coverage – but for same-sex couples, coverage has historically been limited, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This has been a struggle for the LGBTQ community. Two Supreme Court rulings (United States v Windsor in 2013 and Obergefell v Hodges in 2015) changed the legal landscape for same-sex couples and opened doors for greater access to health insurance through the workplace.
Improvement Step: Review your current health insurance plan to see if it allows enrollment for same-sex married and/or non-married domestic partners. Most major health insurance providers today in the US, Canada, Europe and other countries offer domestic partner coverage. If not, seek a plan that does. This will give all of your employees and their families equal access to health care. For equal treatment, you may consider allowing heterosexual domestic partners the same equal benefits as well. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) encourages employers to treat all beneficiaries equally when requesting documentation. “If an employer requires documentation for partner benefits, they should request the same level of documentation for spousal benefits,” states HRC. Annotate your LGBTQ friendly company policies on OutBüro to attract quality candidates.
# 2 – Leave Policy Does Not Cover All Employees Equally
In the U.S. there’s a huge trend of fathers caring for children including being the primary care provider and spending more quality time with their children than in decades past This number will only increase given the rise in adoption and other family building methods among LGBTQ community. Studies have shown that men regardless of sexual orientation who take family leave to care for their children can have negative impact on their careers. As a number of gay men add children to their family this can negative macho work culture can be a double hit of being discriminate against for being gay and then further for taking family leave to care for their child. We need to adapt our thought and appreciate the growing trend of fathers wanting to be more involved in raising their children. Unfortunately, many leave policies do not account for this trend – leaving same-sex partners at a loss when it comes to taking time off to care for their children.
Improvement Step: If you offer a family and/or medical leave policy at your company, make sure you are including same-sex partners, adopted children, and foster children in your definition of family members. Enhance your diversity training to embrace and even celebrate the kinder nurturing side of men backed by the studies.
#3 – Discrimination and Harassment Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
Discrimination and harassment happens in different ways. It can be verbal or written through direct statements, emails or jokes. It can be physical or the threat of physical violence. It can be unwanted sexual advances and/or threats related to sex. It can also be hidden within a decision – like not being considered for a promotion based on the decision maker’s learned prejudices and biases. Studies have found hiring and promoting LGBT employees to management is great for business.
In fact, some 21 percent of LGBT employees report being discriminated against with hiring, promotions, and pay, according to a survey conducted by UCLA’s Williams Institute and that further collaborated in a study by the University of Surrey. Studies show men get penalized for not holding to perceived masculine norms in the office regardless of sexual orientation.
Improvement Step: Consider having all hiring and promotion actions committee based to reduce the prejudices and biases of a single person impacting the company culture negatively. Develop a strong, all-inclusive anti-harassment policy that prevents employees and managers from discriminating against and/or harassing new hires and their co-workers.
If you hear any hate speech or see hurtful actions, or if reported something, make sure you take it seriously, investigate and take corrective action. Ensure your policies are communicated clearly and often.
#4 – Employees Don’t Report Acts of Discrimination or Harassment
Even though your company has a strong LGBTQ supportive anti-harassment policy in place, discrimination and harassment still happen. Some employees may still suffer in silence because they don’t feel comfortable speaking up and reporting it due to a feeling their job may be in jeopardy if they do. This causes the employee to feel unwelcomed in their place of work.
Improvement Steps: Be proactive through having the policies, education, and communicate it often and widely. Create an inclusive “speak-up” culture to so that your employees are comfortable standing up for themselves and report incidents affecting themselves or what they see or hear happening to a co-worker. Claim or add your company listing on OutBüro and invite your employees to rate your company.
The HRC Corporate Equality Index
The Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is an annual measure of how equitably large businesses in the United States treat their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees, consumers, and investors. In 2018 they reported on 947 businesses. 609 Of those achieved a 100% score.
No matter your company size or location your company can be listed on OutBüro where you may indicate the LGBTQ supportive policies that are in place. Being present and active on OutBüro also supports gaining and maintaining a 100% score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index.
How to Demonstrate your LGBT-Inclusive Work Culture Regardless of Size or Location
In addition to the items noted above, making LGBTQ employees feel welcome in the workplace takes more than just one act. It needs to be ingrained in the culture.
For starters, however, here are a few things you can do to jump-start inclusion activities:
Openly recruit LGBTQ candidates via LGBTQ focused job portals such as OutBüro.
Start an LGBT Employee Resource Group.
Offer LGBTQ-specific diversity training to your employees.
Participate in local LGBTQ PRIDE events – gather employees who are interested in attending these events and go as a group!
Reach out to LGBT professional associations to form a relationship to be visible for your current employees and cultivate new employee talent candidates.
Donate to local LGBTQ non-profits to support your community.
- Contact an independent diversity and inclusion consultant who specializes in the LGBT community to assist as you assess your current environment and move to make improvements.
Leverage that consultant or contact OutBüro to explore conducting an anonymous online survey of your employees before they start rating your company/organization publicly on OutBüro as an employer from their LGBT employee perspective
Take your health care benefits a step further and offer a plan that covers and supports your transgender employees. Be sure to indicate this and all your LGBTQ supportive benefits and policies on OutBüro.
Require all vendors and contractors you do business with to also have LGBTQ supportive policies.
Be sure your employees are aware of all that you do by talking about it regularly.
Get involved on OutBüro to attract quality candidates and ensure your current employees see your presence and activity. This further supports your HRC Corporate Equality Index rating if you now or plan to participate in that.
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