In the workplace, sexual orientation discrimination happens when an employee experiences negative employment action, harassment, or denial of certain benefits due to their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of a person they are close to, explained Workplace Fairness, a public education and advocacy organization.
Discrimination against sexual orientation can affect your working environment, job status, health benefits, and other issues in the workplace. Discrimination may occur because of your colleague’s perception of your orientation, whether that is correct or not. For example, you may be fired, not be promoted, or disciplined because your superior thinks you are gay, bisexual, or etc.
Another is when you are forced to endure comments about your mannerisms or sexual activity, as well as sexual jokes, requests for sexual favors, touching or grabbing, imagery negatively depicting a specific sexual orientation, and more. The workplace is still a work in progress when it comes to embracing the LGBTQ community with open arms, said David Levesley of The Muse, a career website. Hence, business leaders need to effect changes that focus on the non-discrimination of said group.
How Has Discrimination Shaped the Lives of the LGBT Community? (2017)
Sejal Singh and Laura E. Durso of Center for American Progress, an independent non-partisan policy institute, gathered data from a nationally representative survey of LGBT people, revealing that 25.2% of LGBT respondents had experienced discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2016. Further, LGBT respondents reported that discrimination at least somewhat negatively affected their psychological well-being (68.5%), including their physical well-being (43.7%), spiritual well-being (47.7%), school environment (38.5%), work environment (52.8%), and their neighborhood and community environment (56.6%).
Fear of discrimination altered the lives of the LGBT community, with 42% using vague language when talking about relationships and 36.5% hiding a personal relationship. Other ways the respondents shaped their lives were hiding affiliation to a certain organization (14.7%), removing an item from a resume (9.5%), avoiding speaking about topics related to LGBT issues in social situations (31.2%), changing the way they dressed (14.7%), and maintaining a limited social media presence (17.2%).
The survey also asked transgender respondents if they avoided places of public accommodation from January 2016 to January 2017 amid a nationwide attack on transgender people’s rights. 25.7% said they avoided public spaces such as stores and restaurants compared to 9.9% of cisgender LGB respondents. 10.9% said they avoided public transportation unlike 4.1% of cisgender LGB respondents. Transgender respondents avoided getting services they or their family needed (11.9% versus 4.4%) and made specific decisions about where to shop (26.7% versus 6.6%). Sadly, disabled LGBT people were more likely to avoid public places than their non-disabled LGBT peers.
In 2016, 20.4% of disabled LGBT participants avoided public spaces (versus 9.1% of non-LGBT respondents), as well as public transportation (8.8% versus 3.6%), getting services they or their family needed (14.7% versus 2.9%), and making specific decisions about where to shop (25.7% versus 15.4%). 23.5% of transgender participants avoiding to go to the doctor’s office in the past year compared to 4.4% of cisgender LGB respondents. Moreover, 13.7% of disabled LGBT respondents (versus 4.2% of non-disabled LGBT respondents) and 10.3% of LGBT people of color avoided going to the doctor’s office in the past year (versus 4.2% of white LGBT respondents).
How to Make Workplaces More LBGTQ-Inclusive
1. Ensure That Your Business Sees LGBTQ Culture
According to Joelle D’Fontaine, founder of At Your Beat, the first step to establishing a more supportive environment is to make it clear that your business sees LGBTQ culture. This will prompt more queer people to apply to your company. You can begin by asking yourself about the tone of your voice and the imagery you are using, D’Fontaine recommended.
Ensure that your applicants can see faces like theirs within your organization, be it a person of color, a transgender, or a non-binary individual. D’Fontaine added, “If a person can look at your website or social media feeds and think, ‘Oh, there’s no one like me there,’ then you have a problem.”
2. Be A Good Role Model
Non-LGBTQ colleagues also need to do their part to advocate for inclusivity. Hence, you have to be responsible for fostering a culture of non-discrimination in your company. Find concrete ways for your employees to build a more inclusive workplace. For example, some firms have programs for allies who call out homophobia or transphobia. These allies are identified by rainbow lanyards or with the “I’m an ally” in their email signature. If you have employees that do this initiative, be sure to support them.
You also have to be mindful of the pronouns you use. Encourage your team to use the right pronouns and to include their pronouns in their email signatures. This helps your colleagues find their co-workers’ preferred pronouns quickly if they feel uncomfortable talking about pronouns or think that too long has passed to ask that question. D’Fontaine commented, “We have trans people in our classes and nonbinary instructors—the key thing to do is acknowledge and educate staff.” Don’t forget to create a space where your LGBTQ employees can ask thoughtful questions and converse sensitively.
3. Listen and Take Action
Your organization will not get anywhere if your LGBTQ employees don’t feel safe and welcome to talk about issues related to LGBTQ. Listen to what they are saying without invalidating their experiences or perspectives just because they don’t share the same views as you. Ensure that the needs of LGBTQ employees are seen and met.
4. Start a Network or Group
Networks help minority groups not to feel isolated, enabling them to make their voices heard even if the immediate team is not diverse or interested in issues plaguing the minority, stated Jack Minty, who works as a senior policy advisor in the British civil service. If you are an LGBTQ manager or leader, you can start a network to build camaraderie and to ensure that your LGBTQ colleagues don’t feel left out.
It is recommended to advocate for funding for your network’s activities. Explain the importance of your group to other business leaders to encourage buy-in. Additionally, reassure your LGBTQ employees that you are willing to participate and help them in ways the members feel is appropriate.
Workplaces need to be more inclusive to drive growth in their business. Non-discriminatory policies will need to be established to make everyone in the organization accountable for their actions. Education will also be needed to help employees learn about the LGBTQ community.