Student Spotlight-Re-Evaluating Your Company’s LGBT Practices

Many companies are assessing if their corporate environment is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) appropriate is by creating an atmosphere of welcoming, as opposed to one of tolerance. What is the difference? According to the article, “Creating a Welcoming Environment for Gay Employees” by Brian McNaught, though tolerance is not a bad thing, it can be interpreted as impersonal and unproductive, for it may deter valuable LGBT employees from staying with a company (McNaught, 2010, n.p., para. 2). While the employee may not feel threatened, the members of these groups may feel excluded if co-workers do not approach them with conversation like they do with their heterosexual co-workers. A reason for why this may be happening is that the employees feel uncertain in the situation and are afraid of responding in an unintentionally offensive manner (McNaught, 2010, n.p., para. 3). One approach to solving this issue is for members of the Human Resource Department to lead by example. Have them spark conversations with open LGBT employees in a public setting of the office, such as the break room or by their desk, about their weekend plans (McNaught, 2010, n.p., para. 5). When employees see that they have nothing to fear in these conversations, they will feel more inclined to approach their co-workers, which may result in a more welcoming environment. Improvements to the transgender policies may also be considered when looking at areas for improvement. In order to make sure the environment is conducive to their lifestyle, make sure the company’s policy is clearly stated as to whom to contact first if they wish to share their situation at the office (LambdaLegal, n.d., p. 22, para. 3). Ideally, the person to contact first is a member of the Human Resource Department and not a supervisor or coworker (LambdaLegal, n.d., p. 23, para. 1). This way, employees who are transgendered do not open themselves up for harassment and discrimination from unprepared coworkers. It is also important to make sure that the dress code in your workplace is not gender-based, so as not to displace those LGBT employees who tend to lean more toward the opposite sex in style. However, it is not illegal to fire an employee for cross-dressing, but doing so can affect employee morale (LambdaLegal, n.d., p. 24, para. 1). This is why confidential discussions between the Human Resource Department and employees who wish to cross-dress on the job should be conducted to clearly outline the company’s tolerance policies on the matter (LamdbLegal, n.d., p. 25, para. 4). Finally, it is never a bad time to re-evaluate your company’s anti-harassment and grievance policies. Make sure that all employees are thoroughly informed of anti-harassment regulations within the workplace and the retaliation that ensues if not followed (Littler.com, 2011, p. 10, para. 1). It is important that the company, as stated, executes these reprimands. Furthermore, make sure that all avenues from which harassment and discrimination claims can be reported are clearly laid out to all employees and confidentiality is maintained where specified (Littler.com, 2011, p. 7, para. 1). Overall, implementing effective policies and procedures are key ways in cultivating diverse workplaces, especially where employee safety and comfort are concerned. It is always important for a company to re-evaluate the company’s nondiscrimination policies. Review your company’s policies to ensure they are legal and match your company culture. Last but not least, examine your company’s anti-harassment and grievance procedures so that they clearly state policies, retaliation, and chain of command. Carolyn Bringe References: Lambda Legal. (n.d.). Creating an LGBT friendly workplace. Retrieved from http://data.lambdalegal.org/pdf/300.pdf. November 11, 2010. Littler, M. P. C. (2011). Best practices for building and lgbt-inclusive workplace. Littler: Employment and Labor Law Solutions Worldwide. Retrieved from http://www.littler.com/files/Best_Practices_for_Building_a_LGBT Inclusive_Workplace.pdf. November 11, 2012. McNaught, B. (2010). Creating a welcoming environment for gay employees. In Fighting for gender equality (18 ed., Vol. 4). The Diversity Factor. Retrieved from http://www.workforcediversitynetwork.com/res_articles_genderequality_mcnau ht.aspx. November 11, 2012.

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