LGBTQ Issues in the Workplace

LGBTQ issues have dominated headlines from the Obergefell decision to bathroom legislation and federal guidance.  With the EEOC taking a stance that the term “sex” in Title VII includes same-sex discrimination, there’s a change in the workplace too.  So what should an employer do with this sensitive?  Here are some tips.

  1. Foster respect in the workplace. Yes, the National Labor Relations Board takes an interesting approach to workplace civility and respect rules.  But, this does not mean that you can’t tell employees to be respectful.   You can and should.  Build respect into your values, talk about respect in harassment training, model respectful behavior.  Respect goes a long way to treating all employees well.
  1. Focus not on what other employees will think, but what you should really care about. Way back when, the first African American employee was hired.  Some employees may not have liked it, been vocal about it, and maybe even complained or quit over it.  As a country, we’re working to get beyond that now.  We wouldn’t tolerate that behavior from employees now directed at African Americans, so we shouldn’t tolerate similar behavior towards the LGBTQ community.  Instead, focus on the work.
  1. Yes, religious beliefs matter, but they shouldn’t play a part in employment decisions. If an employee objects to working with someone because of a religious belief, remind them that they are not at church (unless you really work for a church).  Employers have certain goals that, for the most part, are not tied to a religion.  I’m confident that the EEOC will not support a religious accommodation for an employee to not work with an LGBTQ employee. Title VII’s religious accommodation is designed to allow an employee to practice her religion, not force her beliefs on others or use it as the way to not work with certain people.
  1. Respect the process. I don’t know anyone who thinks that being transgender is a walk in the park.  For many transgender employees, they already feel uncomfortable in their body, so providing a comfortable workplace is essential.  Learn the name and pronoun they want to be used.  Change ID badges, door nameplates, log-ins, and business cards.  Understand that they want privacy and don’t want to worry about what bathroom to use.
  1. Change is hard. Change in a workplace is hard.  When we lose an employee, there is a grieving process that can affect other employees more harshly than others.  But this does not mean that we should try to control the pace of change.  We shouldn’t.  We want competent employees who do their jobs well, treat each other well, and help make work less like work.

If you’d like to speak more about this, join me for a webinar on December 20 when we’ll go through the evolution of the law in this area and more.

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