Three Major Ways To Make Your Workplace Inclusive for LGBTQ+ Employees

training and development programs by HR NOLA

In recent years Diversity, Inclusion and Equity has grown in public understanding, and has taken center stage in reshaping how the workplace runs for all employees. According to Guardian’s Workforce 2020 report, nearly 12 million Americans identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. This same report found that 68% of American workers “strongly agree” that it is important for their employer to create an inclusive workplace culture. While a majority of employees want a more inclusive workplace, changes need to be made from all levels of the organization for them to be effective.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Discriminatory practices in employment based on national origin, religion, race, and sex, have officially been banned since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It wasn’t until June 15, 2020, however, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “sex” protections include LGBTQ+ individuals as well. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” writes Justice Neil Gorsuch of the ruling. This ruling enforces what employers should have already been doing: protecting all of their employees from discrimination in the workplace. 

Outside of this clarification of the Civil Rights Act, just twenty one states specifically protect against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment in both the public and private sector. Unfortunately, Louisiana is not one of them.

Three Best Practices For Inclusivity

There are three main areas that all businesses should focus on when it comes to ensuring they are practicing inclusivity for their LGBTQ+ employees: training, communication, and benefits.

Annual DE&I Training

Keeping your employees, supervisors, and upper management trained on diversity, inclusion, and equity is extremely important. Jake Dufour, Director of HR Operations, says that all employees should be trained on LGBTQ+ inclusivity upon their hire, and annually afterwards. “Training managers on their role in that process on an annual basis is also important, as they have special responsibilities for keeping the workplace a respectful one.” Manager’s training should have content devoted to how to recognize and deal with bias, discrimination and harassment when they occur. Our Respect In The Workplace training can be helpful for all businesses but especially those just starting a DE&I program.

Update Your Communication & Handbook

During your training, it’s helpful to make sure all levels of your organization understand why it’s important to use inclusive language, and why they should share their preferred pronouns. Encouraging employees to add their pronouns to their email signature, any internal platforms, and their LinkedIn profiles is a helpful practice that can really make a difference for your employees and external stakeholders.

Outside of training, it’s important to take a deep dive into the internal language of the company. Jake recommends taking a particularly close look at job descriptions, job postings, and your handbook. “Some terms used have a gender bias, and it is important to be able to recognize them and replace them with gender neutral terms. You should replace gendered terms in policies, especially the employee handbook, with gender neutral terms.”

Benefits That Fit All Employees

One major way that businesses can show that they really care about all their employees is by updating their benefits to be more inclusive. For example, offering benefits to domestic partners or same-sex couples in general. These benefits can include covering those partners on health insurance and life insurance, as well as making sure that your leave plans also cover those partners. Jake says it’s also important to support transgender employees with your benefits, “make sure that your leave policies cover leave for gender transition, and make sure that these policies are communicated to all employees ahead of time.”

Making Inclusivity A Priority All Year

Your training, internal documents, and benefits should be reviewed annually, but that doesn’t make inclusivity a one-and-done project. Practicing inclusivity is an ongoing process for all businesses. Many businesses get themselves into trouble with their employees and with the public when they symbolically support the LGBTQ+ community during June (Pride Month) but not during the rest of the year. Companies should demonstrate a commitment to LGBTQ+ employees beyond Pride Month by making inclusivity a priority all year long. This also means supporting pro-LGBTQ+ groups and nonprofits that benefit their employees.

When you’re just taking the leap into making your business more respectful of all employees, the updates needed can feel overwhelming. Our specialized training and consulting can help your business become more inclusive and equitable for all of your employees. Contact us today to set up a consultation and find out how HR can boost your business!

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