The driving force behind much of the changing trends in the business world in the 21st century has been diversity. More companies are becoming aware of previously internalized disparities across lines such as gender, race and ability level. What's more, the increase in newly created chief diversity officer positions at many major companies has highlighted the seriousness with which business leaders are approaching the issue.
With social progress clearly on the march forward, one demographic that needs support in the workplace is the LGBTQ community. Unlike other factors such as race, this sector of the workforce may create potentially confusing situations for employers, especially where issues of gender and identity are involved. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your business' diversity efforts extend to everyone.
LGBTQ rights are on the upswing
The good news for diversity advocates is that many companies across the U.S. aren't oblivious to the rights and needs of LGBTQ individuals. In fact, Human Resource Executive Online noted that awareness of such issues may be at an all-time high. As the source noted, the Human Rights Campaign's recent findings indicated that there are 366 large businesses with scores of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index – an unprecedented high. However, while the national numbers are encouraging, the story differs on a state-to-state basis. Some 65 percent of Americans work in states that don't provide specific protections and workplace rights for sexual orientation or gender identity.
Providing the proper resources
In many cases, offering effective support for LGBTQ employees involves more than just implementing company policies. HRE Online pointed out that companies should provide resources to employees to help them integrate into company life, as well as provide outreach programs if needed.
The Human Rights Campaign is seeking to take this a step further by proposing legislation that would make these resources a requirement. Taking cues from existing civil rights legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would seek to provide basic protection for employees based on these factors. The HRC noted that currently 21 states have enacted laws protecting from discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 18 states provide legal protection from gender identity-based discrimination.
Anti-discrimination legislation is making steady headway, and may very soon be a nationwide standard. Until then, however, employers who wish to enact company-specific policies to protect and provide resources for LGBTQ staff members could benefit from working closely with PEO companies to navigate the potentially difficult legal channels involved.