Every June, events including festivals and parades are held around the country to celebrate the progress the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) community has made, while also recognizing the distance still needed to achieve full equality. These events are held specifically in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, in which members of the LGBTQ community fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. This event is considered by many to be what launched the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States.
LGBTQ rights certainly get more attention during the month of June, but they deserve focus all year round, especially in the workplace, where many LGBTQ people do not feel comfortable being themselves at work.
The State of LGBTQ Inclusion in the Workplace
Despite notable progress in the fight for LGBTQ rights being made in the public sector, there is still a long way to go, and that is evident in the many LGBTQ people that do not feel comfortable being out at work. According to research from the Human Rights Campaign, 46% of LGBTQ workers are closeted at work, and the top reasons workers do not feel comfortable being out at work include:
Possibility of being stereotyped (38%)
Possibility of making people uncomfortable (36%)
Possibility of losing connections or relationships with coworkers (31%)
Fear that people will think I am attracted to them because I am LGBT (27%)
The research also found that 1 in 10 LGBTQ workers have left a job because the environment was not very accepting of LGBTQ people.
Benefits of Adopting LGBTQ-Supportive Policies
Research from the Williams Institute has found that there are benefits that come from the adoption of LGBTQ inclusive policies in the workplace, and these benefits range from the individual to the organizational level. Some of these benefits include:
A decrease in discrimination and increased openness in the workplace about being LGBTQ, making people feel more comfortable coming out and being out at work.
Improved health and wellbeing, as policies that are not LGBTQ-supportive can take a psychological toll and negatively impact employees’ wellbeing. LGBTQ-supportive policies make employees happier both inside and out of work, which has positive spillover effects on team morale, productivity, and employee turnover.
Changes in healthcare costs, which may go up due to the extension of benefits to same-sex partners of LGBTQ employees, but will ultimately be offset by the improvement of overall employee wellbeing fostered by LGBTQ-supportive policies.
Lower legal costs tied to discrimination, as adopting LGBTQ-supportive policies helps to keep the company in line with state and federal policies, and makes it less likely that employers will face costly compliance lawsuits.
Non-discrimination policies across business entities: Clearly enumerated non-discrimination policies that include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, only 21 states explicitly provide workplace protections on the basis of gender identity and 22 states provide workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation. Employers can and should take steps to go above and beyond to implement fully inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
Equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families: Employers should take steps to ensure that benefits offerings are equitably extended to the entire workforce, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Two key components of equitable benefits offerings include consistency of benefits offerings available to employees, spouses, and partners; and transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits.
Supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility:Employers should develop programs and track metrics to ensure that LGBTQ-inclusion is continuously improving in the workplace. Such programs could include diversity training, public commitment to equality, and corporate giving to programs that support the LGBTQ community.
In addition to adopting these types of LGBTQ-supportive policies, employers must take steps to ensure that support and inclusion for LGBTQ workers is made visible at every level of the organization. This means that senior leadership should be able to speak comfortably about these issues, and should address gaps in knowledge for communicating about these issues. Mid-level managers should be able to lead teams in discussing and combatting against unconscious bias. Finally, individuals should question their own beliefs and assumptions about the LGBTQ community, and consider the level of respect that they wish to receive at work, and ensure they are extending that same level of respect to all coworkers.
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Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design.