June is LGBT Pride Month, an annual event that brings together the LGBT community – and friends, families and employers – to celebrate diversity and focus on actions to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Pride Month is also a great time for organizations to review their workplace harassment training and code of conduct to ensure employees are staying up to date on diversity, inclusion and unconscious-bias issues.
While the law protecting LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination is in flux, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes the position that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are forms of sex discrimination and are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
For fiscal year 2016, the EEOC said it recovered $4.4 million for LGBT individuals who filed sex discrimination charges. That’s double the $2.2 million recovered in fiscal year 2014.
Examples of LGBT-related claims
The EEOC provides a few examples of LGBT-related claims that the agency views as unlawful sex discrimination: These include:
- Failing to hire an applicant because she is a transgender woman
- Firing an employee because he is planning or has made a gender transition
- Denying an employee equal access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity
- Harassing an employee undergoing a gender transition by intentionally and persistently failing to use the employee’s new name and gender pronoun
- Denying an employee a promotion because he is gay or straight
- Discriminating in any aspect of employment, such as providing a lower salary to an employee because of sexual orientation, or denying spousal health insurance benefits to a female employee because her legal spouse is a woman
- Harassing an employee because of their sexual orientation, including using derogatory terms, making sexual comments or disparaging remarks, as they relate to gender stereotypes
More companies adopting LGBT-inclusive policies
Meanwhile, a record 515 employers earned a rating of 100% for demonstrating their commitment to LGBT equality and inclusion, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index. Launched in 2002, the equality index enables businesses from all major sectors to benchmark their LGBT-inclusive policies, benefits and practices against competitors.
Among the 887 companies and firms rated in the 2017 Corporate Equality Index:
- 93% have adopted sexual-orientation equal employment policies
- 92% have gender-identity equal employment policies
- 86% offer education and training covering gender identity in the workplace
- 98% provide same-sex domestic partner or spousal benefits
- 73% offer transgender health care benefits – up from 60% from last year
Training employees and managers on key LGBT terminology can help clear up confusion in the workplace and promote better understanding and awareness. Some common terms include:
- Sexual orientation – refers to one’s emotional, romantic or physical attraction to the same and/or opposite sex
- Transgender – an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from those associated with the sex they were assigned at birth; transgender doesn’t indicate any specific sexual orientation
- Gender identity – refers to a person’s internal sense of gender, regardless of the sex assigned at birth
- Gender expression – refers to a person’s external gender identity, often expressed through clothing, grooming, speech or interaction with others
- Gender transition – refers to the process by which a person begins living as the gender with which they identify. Social transition includes dressing and grooming differently and using a name recognized as another gender. Physical transition may include medical interventions.
Pride Month is an opportunity for organizations to take a fresh look at their harassment training and policies and make sure they address sexual-orientation discrimination, gender identity, stereotyping, unconscious bias and other key diversity and inclusion issues affecting employees, customers, suppliers and vendors.