The equality of lesbian gay bisexual and transsexual individuals in the workplace as well as in the workplace has been an issue of contention that has persisted for decades. Although progress has been achieved towards the equality of LGBT in the workplace, millions of individuals presently still have the fear of losing their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Furthermore, currently, there are no laws in the United States that protect LGBT against discrimination in the workplace. Numerous surveys have also revealed that more than forty percent of lesbian gays and bisexual individuals, as well as ninety percent of transgender people, have experienced some form of mistreatment, harassment or discrimination in the workplace (Catalyst, 2017). Discrimination of LGBT is not only bad for the LGBT employees but it also hurts an organizations bottom line. As such, there is a need for businesses to implement more effective inclusion and diversity policies for LGBT employees.
In the present business world, the workforce is increasingly becoming diverse in terms of personal characteristics such as religion, national origin, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. Additionally, it has been observed that a diverse a well-managed workforce enables an organization to generate more profits and reduce costs (Krejcova, 2015). From the perspective of an organization, diversity of thought, perspective and experience results in better business outcomes. Diversity in the workforce leads to such benefits as the development of better products as organizations that embrace the uniqueness of its workforce tend to be more successful. Additionally, from the perspective of the employees, workplace equality for LGBT is critical especially in more conservative organizations where LGBT employees face resistance.
There are other benefits to be realized by businesses that implement LGBT workplace equality policies. For instance, organizations that practice workplace equality for LGBT workers, benefit from less legal costs associated with discrimination lawsuits (Cunningham-Parmeter, 2015). Additionally, organizations that have been publicized due to their discrimination of LGBT tend to lose their current loyal customers. Thus, by enforcing effective nondiscrimination policies, companies can avoid the negative public image brought about by the publicized discrimination cases resulting in attracting more customers as they will be eager to conduct business with an organization that is socially responsible. Furthermore, an organization that offers equality to its LGBT workforces is likely to gain a larger market share among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers.
Workplace equality for LGBT also enables the LGBT staff to openly be themselves and be out in front of their colleagues thus they will more likely remain in their current position in the workplace. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees suffer most from socioeconomic discriminations in large part because of workplace discrimination. Such discrimination and inequality thus lead to job instability and high turnover among LGBT individuals which in turn results in higher rates of unemployment and poverty for LGBT individuals and widens the gap between straight and LGBT employees (Krejcova, 2015). Thus, the implementation of more effective policies of inclusion and diversity policies would reduce the amount of money and resources spent on the recruitment and training of new workers. Additionally, LGBT employees contribute to a diverse workforce that is more creative leading to new ideas and innovations in an organization.
Apart from benefiting the organization, workplace equality for LGBT individuals also has significant benefits for the individuals. One of the major benefits is that by implementing supportive policies towards LGBT employees, there is an immediate effect on individual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees as there will be less discrimination which results from the increased openness about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. A study carried out by the Williams Institute revealed that employees who spent most of their effort and time hiding their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace had higher levels of anxiety and stress which resulted in work-related complaints and health problems (Badgett, Durso, Kastanis, & Mallory, 2013). Consequently, a workplace that is friendly to LGBT individuals will lead to improved health in LGBT workers, better relationships between coworkers, increased levels of job satisfaction and an improved work commitment among LGBT employees.
Given the obvious benefits of workforce equality for LGBT employees in the workplace, it is only logical that more businesses implement effective nondiscrimination policies. Organizations should have internal policies in place that ensure employees are not discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity. Evidently, as organizations realize the economic benefits of LGBT friendly workplaces, more businesses are increasingly voluntarily implementing a variety of non-discriminatory policies. For instance, the number of Fortune 500 companies that include sexual orientation and gender identity in the nondiscrimination policies has risen from seventy-two percent, a decade ago, to the present eighty nine percent. Federal contractors have also followed suit in implementing LGBT workplace equality policies with eighty-six percent of the largest fifty contractors prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and sixty-one percent prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.
The chart below represents the percentage of businesses in the United States that have adopted inclusive practices and policies that benefit LGBT employees. The data is based on the corporate equality index (CEI) published by the human rights campaign.
Other strategies can be employed to ensure that workplace equality for LGBT employees is realized. One of the most effective ways is for people in the business world, especially business leaders, to come out and openly declare their sexual orientation, as was the case with Tim Cook, a CEO of one of the most prolific companies in the world (Qvist, 2014). Such declarations from such courageous and influential people will pave the way for the acceptance and accommodation of LGBT individuals in the workplace. Furthermore, straight business leaders also need to be vocal about their backing of the equality of LGBT in the workplace as well as lead to the wide representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the business world.
Businesses that pledge support to their employees regardless of the gender identity or sexuality create a sense of empowerment among the workforce as well as setting industry standards that pave the way for change in the business world and the society. Furthermore, by making use of subtle signs coupled with bold statements, businesses can develop inclusive atmospheres that spread throughout the entire organization and eventually throughout the society. Companies should also discourage office banter directed at LGBT individuals as it can lead to a culture of subordination. Additionally, complaints from LGBT employees should be seriously considered. Companies can also make other bold statements such as the establishment of gender-neutral restrooms in order to clearly convey the message that gender is not an issue in the organization (Qvist, 2014).
Major strides have been made over the years in regards to the rights of LGBT. However, there is still a long way to go when it comes to their equality in the workplace. As long as a federal law does not exist that protects their rights in the workplace, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders will also be in danger of being discriminated on the grounds of the sexual orientations and gender identity.
Badgett, M. L., Durso, L. E., Kastanis, A., & Mallory, C. (2013). The Business Impact of LGBT-Supportive Workplace Policies. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.
Catalyst. (2017, May 30). Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Workplace Issues. Retrieved from Catalyst: http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-workplace-issues
Cunningham-Parmeter, K. (2015). Marriage Equality, Workplace Inequality: The Next Gay Rights Battle. Florida Law Review, 1099.
Krejcova, M. (2015, February 26). The value of LGBT equality in the workplace. Retrieved from GLAAD: https://www.glaad.org/blog/value-lgbt-equality-workplace
Qvist, B. (2014, July 28). Challenges for LGBT people in the workplace and how to overcome them. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/lgbt-employees-discrimination-in-the-workplace-talkpoint
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