The phrase “be yourself” is a motto that is often imprinted on us when we’re young, so we grow up thinking that acceptance will fall into place as we embrace our true selves. But within the LGBTQ+ community, being yourself has an abundance of discriminative repercussions, especially within the workplace.
Studies have found that 15% to 43% of gay individuals have experienced discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and 90% of transgender workers have reported enduring the same treatments.1 Taking into consideration that workers in half of the states in the US have been fired for being gay or trans, it’s apparent that these abuses are jeopardizing the economic security of LGBTQ+ individuals and their rights within the workplace.
Who Are The LGBTQ+ Workers?
Roughly 4.5% of the population in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, which is around 11 million LGBTQ+ people.2 In the workplace, they face higher rates of income instability, higher poverty, higher rates of unemployment, and higher incidence of pre-existing conditions.3 These rates have hit an all-time high due to the pandemic, which has impacted the community greatly.
42% of LGBTQ+ individuals identify as people of color, which includes the 21% that identify as Latino/a, 12% as Black, 2% as Asian, and 1% as American Indian and Alaskan Native.4 This diversity is largely a result of age, considering the majority of younger individuals are likely to be of color.
The LGBTQ+ community is growing, considering that acceptance is becoming more common. Individuals are beginning to embrace their sexuality and preferences. However, the dark truth is that 50% of LQBTQ+ Americans choose to stay in the closet while at work.5 This can often result in negative psychological effects, such as the feeling of isolation and depression.
Many LGBTQ+ workers are in a constant state of fear due to the worry of discrimination and stereotyping within the workplace. Sexuality has zero impact on work performance, which has been proven by various authorities, and yet, the jobs of LGBTQ+ people seem to be at risk due to how they identify.
Does Legislation Provide Real Protection?
Despite unfair treatment within the workplace, the legal and social standing of LGBTQ+ individuals is improving. A multitude of states, businesses, and municipalities have adopted and integrated nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.
Legislation has been working to place protections that benefit LGBTQ+ individuals, but it’s been a long-drawn-out process. However, in 2013, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The ENDA’s premise is straightforward: All Americans should have equal treatment in the workplace regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
Since 2015, the Equality Act has been introduced a total of 4 times, but it’s continuously died in committee until 2021. The Equality Act of 2021 is currently being referred to the Judiciary committee with a total of 48 cosponsors. If passed, the bill will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to halt discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity within employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federally funded programs, credit, and jury service.6
Currently, the Equality Act is supported by 547 national, state, and local organizations that relate to human rights and social justice. A few of these are Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, and Anti-Defamation League.
While the Equality Act will protect LGBTQ+ people on a wide basis, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (2020) prevents firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status. The Supreme Court held that this would directly violate Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination due to sex.
While it’s obvious that there have been many rulings in favor of LGBTQ+ rights within the workplace, there’s still an abundance of gaps that are responsible for the continued discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers.
Here are a few of the loopholes/gaps within the decrees:
- Businesses with 15 employees or less are not protected.
- Some employee benefits may not cover the medical care of transgender people, or they leave out LGBTQ+ families.
- There’s an open question as to if employees can fire LGBTQ+ people based on their religion.
- Parental leave is often for women, so new parents (such as two men) would often not receive the leave needed to bond with a new child.
Discrimination and abuse within the workplace will continue to be an issue for the LGBTQ+ community until all aspects of their lives and individuality are taken into consideration. It’s time legislation moves forward with more diverse and inclusive tactics that prove real protection for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Advocate for LGBTQ+ Rights in Your Workplace
June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, which is a time to commemorate The Stonewall Riots that occurred in June 1969. These riots catalyzed the gay rights movement in the United States. Even so, numerous businesses still neglect equality and inclusion within the workplace. But with persistence, you can bring awareness to progress the rights and equal opportunity of LGBTQ+ employees where you work!
1. Identify Key Decision Makers
To further your plan of equality, you should determine who makes the key decisions at your place of work. These potential allies could be in the upper echelons of the company.
Ask these questions as you brainstorm:
- Are there individuals within management that would be supportive?
- Who oversees your employer’s equal opportunity compliance?
- Does anyone focus on recruiting employers from diverse segments?
- Is there a board of directors?
2. Chat About it to Build Support
Try talking to your supervisor about your thoughts on the topic of LGBTQ+ equality in your workplace. Mention what you are trying to accomplish and why it’s so important.
You can also look into conversing with the human resource department. They are responsible for the life cycle of employees, so they could have noteworthy information on the hiring process. Plus, you can ask if the employee benefits are offered equally among your fellow staff members.
Does your company have an LGBTQ+ employee resource group? If not, consider starting one. These groups seek to connect individuals that are in similar situations while empowering an inclusive workplace.
If you need inspiration on how to create an LGBTQ+ employee resource group, try taking a look at the California-based company, Iron Mountain. In 2015, it launched the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Employee Resource Group, which seeks to provide visibility to all LGBTQ+ employees within the company. Additionally, the group strives for inclusivity as well as making employees and their allies feel safe and valued.
3. Put Your Plan to Action
Set up a meeting with the HR team or management to deliver your proposal. Know the company you work for and establish your credibility to make an impact. Also, vocalize why an inclusive workplace is necessary.
Patience is key, so don’t get discouraged if this process takes more than one meeting. Potentially, you could look at taking the issue further up the employee ladder if needed.
Keep an eye out for new information relating to LGBTQ+ workplace rights. Try digging deep into the web or your local newspaper. You can pass your findings along to management to prove that you’re an excellent resource. Offer to answer any questions they might have.
While you’re advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, be a light in your workplace. Embody the inclusion you’re striving for. Show openness to everyone. And push onwards in your journey to bring awareness, even after your workplace has embraced equality for LGBTQ+ employees.
Let’s Normalize Being Better
The Human Beauty Movement (The HBM) is a purpose-driven organization on a mission to honor and support inclusion within the beauty industry and beyond regardless of color, gender, sexuality, age, creed, status, or ability. We strive to support and inspire all humans to be the best version of themselves while pushing for a more equal future for all. The HBM’s goal is to prioritize people and the planet over profit, while always acting as a force of good.