Despite the Federal law that protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation), discrimination still occurs every day in the U.S. Discrimination against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community is still a widespread issue, including in the workplace. Employers can use the following strategies to learn how to create an inclusive workplace for their LGBTQI employees in which they can feel safe, respected and appreciated.
How to Avoid a Hostile Work Environment
In a hostile work environment, an employee feels uncomfortable, threatened or intimidated due to the behaviour of employers, supervisors or coworkers. Anyone can create or contribute to a hostile work environment, and it can negatively affect anyone in the workplace.
Certain work environments can become hostile to LGBTQI employees due to offensive or inappropriate conduct. Sometimes seemingly innocuous comments or behaviors can lead to LGBTQI employees feeling excluded and unsafe in their workplace. The following are some examples of hostile conduct that employers should actively discourage:
- Inappropriate language or references to someone’s sex, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity
- Insults or demeaning language
- Attempts to shame or humiliate a coworker
- Excluding, socially isolating, ignoring or bullying a coworker
- Attempts to undermine a coworker’s work or professional development
These kinds of behaviour are always inappropriate and should be avoided at all costs. Saying “It was just a joke!” is not a valid defense of hostile conduct and inappropriate behavior.
How to Promote Equal Employment Opportunity for LGBTQI Employees
Employers can make all the difference when it comes to their LGBTQI employees’ emotional well-being at work. They should use the following strategies to promote equal employment opportunity (EEO):
- Looking out for signs that their workplace is hostile, and stopping any inappropriate or offensive behavior before it gets out of hand
- Intervening immediately if an employee does or says something that could make another employee feel unsafe or uncomfortable
- Setting a positive example for their employees by being inclusive and treating everyone with equal respect
- Creating or participating in workplace programs with the aims to increase EEO efforts and to encourage and celebrate diversity
- Encouraging all employees to celebrate and learn more about LGBTQI Pride Month
- Creating a list of helpful resources for employees looking to learn more
LGBTQI Pride Month
LGBTQI Pride Month is celebrated in the U.S. in the month of June to honor and commemorate the activists involved in the 1969 Stonewall uprising in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall uprising is one of the most significant moments in the history of the LGBTQI civil rights movement, and it is important to remember how far the Nation has come in terms of fighting discrimination and prejudice. In June, there are a variety of celebratory events hosted to recognize the positive impact that LGBTQI people have had on the country's history.