By Ashley Rodriguez,
HERdacity Marketing Manager
June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot fire employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I found this out as I scrolled Facebook in the morning as many of my friends celebrated the decision and shared the news. I celebrated with them, while trying to ignore the pit in my stomach that my rights had to be voted on at all.
I am lucky to work for a company where I can bring my whole self to work when almost half (46%) of LGBTQ+ employees are closeted at their workplace. However, this has not always been the case for me. I remember referring to my wife as “my spouse” or “my partner” during job interviews, so as not to “out” myself. Or referring to her as “they” when the topic came up.
When we got married, I told no one at my previous company because I knew they would want to see photos or hear more about it and I was afraid that I would be fired. When I added my wife to my health insurance benefits, I was jumpy for weeks as I waited for someone to catch on and tell me I was let go.
I have been told by superiors that talking about my wife was a “pattern disruption” because they weren’t used to hearing a woman talk about “her wife.” I have had awkward conversations with receptionists and workers when they ask for my husband’s name. And I have had to deal with the statements of, “You don’t look gay!” “I have a gay friend I think you’ll love,” or even “What a waste!”
This ruling is the step in the right direction. However, this decision will not stop the bias, microaggressions, or fear that the LGBTQ+ community has when bringing their whole selves to work. To truly address those issues, we must create an inclusive, open workplace. I have researched three different ways you and your company can start creating that inclusivity.
Review Your Benefits
According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index, only 65% of Fortune 500 companies have Transgender inclusive benefits, and 53% have domestic partnership benefits. Review that your health insurance does not discriminate against your transgender employees.
In addition, most parental leave policies only benefit the parent that has given birth and are created with cisgender, straight couples in mind. In many cases, a same-sex parent cannot take parental leave or adoption leave until that have legally adopted their child. This is not always immediately financially possible. Ensure that your parental leave policy is inclusive to all your employees and allows all parents to spend time to bond with their child.
Address Hostility + Listen to Your LGBTQ+ Employees
There has been a lot of growth and learning over the past week with the Black Lives Matter movement and people recognizing their bias and privilege. We are now fully examining the impact of our words and that impact is more important that the intent of what was said.
If you are told that you have said something offensive, listen and reflect. “That’s not what I meant” is not a viable excuse when someone is telling you how you’ve hurt them. Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, says that employees should have consistent and ongoing training on how to foster an inclusive workplace for everyone. Ensure you have specific training on how to address homophobia and transphobia.
Show Your Support
Many companies will talk the talk, but struggle to find actionable items to show support. One thing you can do is to create an LGBTQ+ ERG. This gives your employees a sense of belonging and can help drive needed changes within your organization.
Your company can also commit publicly to donating to LGBTQ+ charities and attending PRIDE events. Your dollars vote for the world you want to live in. Supporting, partnering with, and donating to nonprofits that focus on LGBTQ+ issues is a tangible way to show your support to your employees.
My Journey is Far from Over…
My journey, and the journey of the LGBTQ+ community is far from over. There are still many obstacles to overcome. But I am so happy to see all the progress being made and the effort both companies and individuals are making to be inclusive. And that’s why I will continue to dedicate my time, effort, money, and voice so that the journey for others is less arduous than mine.
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