Over the past decade or two LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion has come a long way. In the United State, it is now illegal to discriminate against candidates and employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, that does not immediately erase years of learned conscious and unconscious prejudices and biases. Discrimination still exists and can affect your job search and life at work. If you want to make sure that you are well-protected, you’ll need to take the four steps below.
If Seeking a Job
If you are looking for a new career opportunity be sure to check out these resources:
- 13 Resume/CV Tips for the LGBTQ Job Seeker
- Should You be OUT as LGBTQ on Your Resume/CV
- 37 LinkedIn Profile Tips for Queer Networkers and Job Seekers
- Research Finds Females Favor Hiring Gay and Lesbian Job Seekers
- Study finds LGBT people less likely to be hired, paid less, and not promoted
Know the Employer’s Policies & Benefits
Be sure to review the employer policies related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees. If seeking a new job, sometimes this information can be found on their careers portal. If they are a fortune 1000 level company they may be listed on the HRC Corporate Equality Index. Employers of any size may have their policy, benefits, and other information on the OutBüro (https://outburo.com) platform. If you currently are working, your employer should have all policies and benefits information available to you on their internal human resources portal or at minimal on paper for review. If they are not yet on OutBüro, you may add the employer listing for free with limited features and provide a rating/review. Introduce the site to the HR Director or the person in charge of diversity and inclusion.
You should review the following and have them stored digitally or on hand for future reference:
- Domestic Partner Benefits
- Anti-Discrimination Policy that specifically states sexual orientation and gender identity
- See if any of their health plans cover transgender healthcare
- Do they have employee resource groups and is one for LGBTQ+ employees. If so, join it. If not, consider starting it.
- Have they done any LGBTQ+ inclusive talent recruiting
- Have they done any LGBTQ+ inclusive customer marketing
- Be aware of all policies including disciplinary policies and procedures, sexual harassment, and others.
Know Your Contract
So often, people don’t read contracts. Be sure to read your employment or consulting contract if any. Also, be aware of the employment laws of your state or country. In the US, some states like Florida are “employment at will” which means an employer may let an employee go at any time for no reason at all. Take a look at the various rules and procedures of your company, including why you can be fired and/or disciplined. It’s also important to know your company’s policies for dealing with problems and what steps have to be taken before dismissal. Your goal should be to know exactly how you should be treated according to the law and your contract before you start working. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be much more confident in reporting problems and taking steps to keep your job secure.
Build a Rapport with Human Resources
Building a professional and casual relationship with persons in the human resources department is a great idea. Have an established rapport with these individuals gives you someone to talk to if things go wrong and gives you the opportunity to share any concerns you might have. If an incident happens that you feel discriminated against or feel harassed it is a lot easier to report problems when you already established a friendly relationship with HR staff.
Document everything on your own personal device. You likely have a smartphone, use the camera to take pictures or video, voice notation app, and notes app. Who, when, what, where are the key. Be as detailed as possible.
Your Voice has the Power to Create Change
Work with a Compensation or Employement Lawyer
While you don’t necessarily need to keep a lawyer on retainer all the time, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney any time you feel like your job might be in danger. They can tell you if there’s a chance that something wrong is being done and will let you know what moves to make next. Sometimes it’s just helpful to get a neutral third-party view of what’s happening at your office and how you should reasonably react. If your city, state, or country has an LGBTQ Bar Association, contact them for a referral. In the US and Canada, there is a service called LegalShield where you pay a relatively low monthly subscription fee and gain access to lawyers of all types. In addition to employment lawyers, they can review rental agreements, create wills, living trusts, and much more. So if you think you might desire lawyers pretty much on call, that might be worth considering. This is not sponsored or an endorsement, but if you’d like to explore it, I know a couple of people who are LGBTQ+ I can get you in touch with to learn more.
Finally, it’s up to you to speak up when something goes wrong. If you feel like you are being discriminated against, you need to talk to someone in HR. Make sure that you are clear about your feelings and why the issue at hand is important. If you don’t speak up, things will get swept under the rug and your performance will deteriorate. Then you run the risk of being let go for that. Even if you’ve never spoken to HR before, you absolutely must speak up to protect your rights and to keep your workplace comfortable for you and others. During your conversation with HR, ask what the next steps are. Stay in contact with HR. If the situation continues or worsens
Unfortunately, it will generally be up to you to ensure the safety of your job and income. Talk to HR and lawyers, know your rights, and speak up for yourself and the safety of others. Discrimination has no place in the workplace, and you deserve the protections afforded to you by the law.