Belonging in the Workplace

The ADA and Returning to Work Post COVID
June 30, 2021
The Delta Variant & Your Workplace
July 21, 2021

Belonging in the Workplace

Studies show that diverse organizations outperform less-diverse organizations in revenue, profits and employee satisfaction. By just hiring individuals from different backgrounds to have a diverse environment isn’t enough. You should also have inclusion.  This happens when individuals truly welcome everyone in the organization for who they are. A 2020 Gallup poll of more than 15,000 people in the U.S. ages 18 and older found that 5.6% identify as LGBTQ and 11.3% of those respondents identify as transgender. More member of Gen Z were found to identify as LGBTQ than members of older generations.

Workplaces today should ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts include individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) in order for the business to be successful.  The individuals that support the LGBTQ community will seek out places to work and spend their money based on the diversity and inclusion practices of the company.

Having a written policy isn’t enough. Even if an employee is in a workplace with internal policies that protect LGBTQ workers, a company’s culture may inhibit employees from bringing their whole selves to work.

The following examples point to how employers can build a culture of inclusion in the workplace.

UPDATE POLICIES

Employers should ensure that all anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies include LGBTQ individuals. Review policies such as dress code expectations and make sure they are neutral without gender stereotypes. Policies requiring women to wear make-up or dress a special way or prohibiting men from wearing jewelry should be replaced with neutral expectations.

One of the biggest concerns is regarding which bathroom should be used by a transgender employee. An employee should be permitted to use the restroom consistent with the individual’s gender identity. To require an employee to use a restroom that differs from the employee’s identified gender, or to restrict a transgender employee (and not others) to using only a single-user restroom is discriminatory treatment. Employers may want to create single-user restrooms for all employees or offer gender-neutral restrooms to be used by anyone.

SET EXPECTATIONS

Respect. Regardless of how someone feels about another person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, all employees should also be required to treat everyone with respect. An inclusive work environment is one where all employees are able to contribute and feel like they belong; it does not require that employees agree with another individual’s lifestyle.

USE PREFERRED PRONOUNS

Some transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals prefer to use pronouns other than he/him/his or she/her/hers, such as they/them/theirs. While it may not come naturally to refer to an individual as “them,” if that is the pronoun an individual prefers, that is the pronoun that should be used. Inclusive employers are also removing gender-based pronouns from employee handbooks and other company materials. Replacing “he” or “she” with “they” indicates support and acceptance of non-binary individuals who do not identify as male or female.

COMMUNICATE WITH EMPLOYEES

When it comes to sharing information about a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, that should be left solely to the individual. While an employee may disclose information to a manager or HR, they may not feel comfortable sharing with everyone. Others may be very open and eager to express themselves at work. An employee going through a gender transition, for example, may want to very openly disclose this to the workplace and work with the employer to educate co-workers about what to expect. Employers should only share information regarding sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression with others when specifically asked to do so by the individual.

PROVIDE TRAINING

Training employees to recognize and eliminate discrimination in the workplace is important for every employer and updating the organization’s presentations to cover LGBTQ individuals is essential to provide equal opportunity to all employees. Such training should be included in both new-hire and ongoing training offerings.

Examples of topics to cover include:

  • LGBTQ terminology.
  • Gender-neutral language.
  • Examples of inclusive conduct.
  • Understanding and addressing implicit bias.
  • Reporting harassment, discrimination or bullying.
  • How to be an ally.

Federal Laws

Workplace inclusion for LGBTQ individuals isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the law. The following provides a brief overview of the legal obligations for employers.

TITLE VII

In June 2020, the Supreme Court held that firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. The ruling prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from making adverse employment decisions, such as firing or refusing to hire an individual, because they are gay or transgender.

HEALTH CARE

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability by entities that primarily provide health care and receive federal funding. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in a May 2021 statement that its Office for Civil Rights will define sex discrimination in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock. While this guidance might not directly apply to certain employee health plans if neither the sponsoring employer nor the plan receives HHS funding, employers must ensure that their health plans do not contain provisions that could be discriminatory based on sex.

Anything that can be done to make all employees feel welcome and safe in an organization will only help in the long run. To get workplace diversity and inclusion right, you need to build a culture where everyone feels valued and heard. Take some time to revisit your policies. Are they inclusive? Are you following the law and complying with Title VII? Hubric Resources is here to assist your organization with diversity and inclusion.

Contact Tamara today at (610) 670-7878 ext. 100 to learn more about our offering of D&I trainings that we can conduct onsite at your business.

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