LGBTQ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities. Historically, these groups have faced substantial adversity. Despite the 2014 signing of an executive order by former President Barack Obama outlawing employers from discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation or gender identity, much is still needed to be done to make workplaces LGBTQ-friendly (Transgender Law Center, 2014). Under the current Trump administration, tensions between traditionalist/conservative individuals and LGBTQ colleagues are all the more apparent. Given this divide, it is important for organizations to ensure inclusive and non-discriminatory practices and protocols via online trainings distributed by an online education platform to increase productivity and job satisfaction among LGBTQ workers.
Why Create an LGBTQ-Friendly Workplace?
Creating an LGBTQ-friendly workspace makes it much easier for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers to disclose their identities to coworkers. This reduces anxiety related to fears of not being accepted, which often inhibit optimal productivity. Additionally, current research indicates that supported LGBTQ employees show increased rates of future employee recruitment, adjustment periods to new jobs, and increased commitment to their institution (Soderlund, 2016). It’s no wonder that the majority of successful Fortune 500 companies have policies in place to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and support domestic partner health insurance benefits to employees. Unfortunately, it is less likely that companies smaller than Fortune 500 companies provide the same comprehensive protections to LGBTQ workers (Human Rights Campaign, n.d.).
How to Create an LGBTQ-Friendly Workplace
- Adopt LGBTQ-friendly health and leave policies, as well as equal pay policies.
- Provide domestic partner health insurance benefits for a same-sex spouse and children of same-sex marriages. This way, regardless of the gender of the spouse and the sexual orientation of the employee, workers have an equal opportunity to cover their spouse and children under their health care plan (Soderlund, 2016).
- Provide a health care plan that covers transgender employees’ health needs (e.g., hormone therapy, sex-change operations, etc.; DeVaul, 2017).
- Provide a leave policy that extends to new LGBTQ dads or moms. This way, parents are given equal opportunities to take off work to care for newborns, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender of the employee (DeVaul, 2017).
- Ensure equal pay to equally ranked employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. Unfortunately, in the United States, gay men are payed 10 to 32% less than their heterosexual counterparts (Sears & Mallory, 2014). Policies that do not support equal pay for equal work are unacceptable.
- Provide LGBTQ-friendly resources.
- Incorporate LGBTQ resources on the company website or any other company education platform. Additionally, include support of LGBTQ and other minorities in the mission statement of your company. This will encourage an increase of LGBTQ job applicants. An increase in the population of the LGBTQ community at your organization reduces the discomfort of LGBTQ workers regarding being open about their gender or sexual preferences. Reduced discomfort leads to less work-related stress and promotes psychological and physical well-being (Donnell, 2016).
- Organize LGBTQ employee resource groups at your organization to promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community (DeVaul, 2017). Events organized for and by the LGBTQ group encourage bonding between coworkers, whether LGBTQ or non-LGBTQ members, and provide LGBTQ workers with an alternative to other heteronormative events organized by your institution.
- Provide a gender-neutral bathroom. If you are an organization that finds it difficult to only provide unisex bathrooms, offer male and female bathrooms along with unisex bathroom alternatives. This way, transgender workers are provided with a bathroom option in the event that they are uncomfortable using the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
3. Have your online diversity training course include LGBTQ groups, or create an LGBTQ-specific diversity training.
- Training content provided by an online education platform should highlight acceptable and unacceptable language or behaviors toward LGBTQ workers and any other minorities. This provides workers with an understanding of how to productively interact in a welcoming, diverse environment. This also serves as a preventative measure for common microaggressions that decrease minority workers’ job satisfaction and performance.
- Training content should also highlight resources for minorities that are readily available to them at your institution. If there is an LGBTQ group, let your workers know that this exists, and how to get involved. Further, provide HR contacts for LGBTQ workers and other minorities to get in touch with regarding any unfair treatment and to provide feedback regarding areas to improve inclusivity.
- Content should be created by a social worker, or any other multiculturalism professional who has expertise in the latest optimal behavior and language toward minority groups.
- Testing workers online every few months on learning outcomes from diversity trainings via an education platform can enable stronger retention of training materials. These quick tests provided by an LMS education platform are easy to administer on any device, and can be taken at the convenience of the trainee. This ensures that workers continue to understand proper protocols to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment.
I know what you are thinking: This seems like a significant amount of changes to institute! You’re right. I cannot argue with you there, but changes like these are necessary to combat the discriminatory framework that most organizations are utilizing. Ideally, if the funds are available, it would be possible to incorporate all of these changes at once to become an LGBTQ-friendly workplace. However, it is certainly understandable that all of these changes might not be feasible for a small organization. The truth is, any one of these changes is a step in the right direction to transforming your company into a more inclusive and welcoming place to work.
DeVaul, E. (2017, June 23). Common LGBTQ issues in the workplace (and how to solve them). [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.zenefits.com/blog/lgbtq-workplace-issues-and-how-to-solve-them/
Donnell, C. (2016, September 7). 3 ways to foster an LGBT-friendly workplace [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/281108
Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). LGBTQ equality at the fortune 500. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/lgbt-equality-at-the-fortune-500
Sears, B., & Mallory, C. (2014). Employment discrimination against LGBT people: Existence and impact. In C. M. Duffy & D. M. Visonti (Eds.), Gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace: A practical guide (pp. 40-1–40-19). New York, NY: Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs.
Soderlund, A. J. (2016). Strategy development to support LGB individuality in the workplace. The Advanced Generalist: Social Work Research Journal, 2, 1–13. Retrieved from http://webs.wichita.edu/?u=socialwork&p=/advanced_generalist_social_work_research_journal/
Transgender Law Center. (2014, July 21). Progress: Executive order signed! [Press release]. Retrieved from https://transgenderlawcenter.org/archives/10758