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How does your business go about recruiting to the LGBT community? Do any of your advertising and marketing practices target LGBT consumers? Do you know how to assist a transgendered employee in their gender transition process at work? And what about those bathrooms—how are you addressing this issue? Workplaces have made progress towards LGBT equality yet LGBT workers still go to work every day with fear that they might lose their jobs because of whom they love and who they are. There is no federal law protecting the LGB community from workplace discrimination and harassment. There is confusion among organizations as to whether the federal civil rights law Title VII protects gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) employees.
The EEOC and several courts clearly have stated that LGB employees are protected by Title VII however other courts have disagreed. Recently, the EEOC has filed its first two sexual orientation lawsuits. These two cases demonstrate the EEOC’s commitment to moving forward to protect LGB employees from discrimination under Title VII. Transgender employees are protected under the Civil Rights Act Title VII because their discrimination is “because of sex” yet discrimination lawsuits continue to arise as to what bathroom and locker room transgender employees can use while at work. Roughly 90% of transgender and 40% of GLB employees experience workplace discrimination according to some surveys.
Heterosexism - the cultural expectation that everyone is, should be, or would prefer to be heterosexual - is the established norm of the workplace; a commonplace bias in American institutions. This bias gets played out in both overt and covert behaviors which in turn negatively impact the organizational culture. However, there have been organizational successes in diminishing the biases. There is an opportunity for your organization to create strategies to ensure LGBT inclusion in your workforce.
As with any other organization, healthcare employs LGBT individuals who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and feel included in their work culture and environment. When members of the LGBT community do not feel as though they are accepted by others it decreases morale, productivity, increases turnover, and may interfere with their ability to provide the best quality patient care. Treating LGBT employees with respect and dignity is not only required by the EEOC, but also by several states and some federal courts. You run the risk of liability if the LGBT population is not included in the culture of your workplace.
Dr. Susan Strauss is a national and international speaker, trainer and consultant. Her specialty areas include management/leadership development, organization development, communication, and harassment and bullying. She is an expert witness for discrimination and harassment lawsuits. She trains and consults with business, education, healthcare, law, and government organizations from both the public and private sector. Dr. Strauss has authored over 30 book chapters, books, and articles in professional journals. She has been featured on 20/20, CBS Evening News, and other television and radio programs as well as interviewed for newspaper and journal articles. She has her doctorate in organizational leadership, is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and human services, a master’s degree in community health, and professional certificate in training and development.