October 11 was National Coming Out Day, an internationally observed civil awareness day for the LGBT community and allies to celebrate individuals who publicly identify as a gender or sexual minority. But just because the date has passed, that doesn't mean we can't respect and recognize others.
In the U.S., courts have ruled that anti-gay slurs and homophobic language are considered sexual orientation discrimination. If you are aware of discrimination, it's your obligation to report it so it can be properly investigated. Most organizations have written policies that address inappropriate remarks or bullying behavior. It's usually contained in the employee handbook. The policy outlines what to do if you feel you're being harassed. It should also tell you where to take your concerns - typically human resources or your manager.
This isn't only an employee issue. Businesses are also liable for hate speech or refusing to provide service directed at LGBT customers. While companies need to be complaint with the law, the real point isn't that companies should gear up for defending themselves against harassment claims. Organizations should take steps to make sure their workplaces are inclusive. That involves four steps:
- Policy Development: When it comes to creating policies and procedures, there are two key factors to consider - equal and fair. They are not the same. Companies should assess their policies to make sure they are complaint but also that they are fair for everyone.
- Recruiting: Organizations should be inclusive in their hiring. What this means is that companies are willing to hire individuals who are different but also self-aware. They have high levels of emotional intelligence and the ability to build positive trusting work relationships.
- Training: Team development and team building are two different things. Whenever you want a group of individuals to operate effectively together, they should be given the skills to succeed. Offering team development training in the areas of collaboration, problem solving, group decision making, and facilitation skills is essential.
- Communication: This applies to all workplace communications. Building trust is the foundation of employee relations. The way to build trust is through respect. Respecting other individuals, whether they are similar to or different from ourselves. Communication is our spoken word, written word, and our body language.
There is no downside to becoming an LGBT-friendly organization. There's no downside to becoming an inclusive organization. Being "open minded" isn't enough. Becoming an inclusive organization needs to be present at every level in the company.