In the past decades, governments around the world have taken strides to enact laws that protect the rights of workers, with varying degrees of success. However, there remains one group of underrepresented workers whose rights are not protected on a federal level: LGBTQIA+.
On a state-by-state basis, laws related to employment discrimination vary, with some states explicitly protecting gender identity and sexual orientation, others only focused on sexual orientation, which leaves transgender employees without recourse, and others still leaving trans and gay employees open to discriminatory actions.
According to a study conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, most Americans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people – almost 70 percent favor laws that would provide protection against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Unfortunately, while public opinion has changed, the law has not. The Equality Act has languished in the U.S. Congress for nearly 40 years. In May 2019, the majority-Democratic House of Representatives passed the bill, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes.” It was sent to the Republican-led Senate that same month, and has since been referred to committee.
What We Gain From to LGBT-Affirming Workplace Culture
No matter the state your business operates in, the leadership of your company and culture of your workplace dictates the treatment of LGBT employees. In order to attract and retain the best talent, individuals must feel like they are welcome to be themselves at the office and that the version of them they bring will be celebrated and affirmed.
In 2013, The Williams Institute did a review of previous research related to LGBT-affirming workplace policies and the impact it had on the bottom line of the business. Their findings showed, after analyzing 36 studies, a positive link between LGBT-supportive work cultures and “outcomes that will benefit employees.” Benefits include “greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and increased productivity in LGBT employees.”
How the Fortune 500 Is Moving the Needle on LGBT Workplace Anti-Discrimination
One of the most well-known international standards for examining LGBT workplace discrimination is the Corporate Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Their annual CEI is viewed by professionals and organizational culture leaders around the world, and the rankings make headlines. In the 2018 edition, the report stated that more than 90 percent of CEI-ranked companies have gender identity and sexual orientation protections for their U.S. and global operations.
While the federal government is taking years to enact change and secure protections for LGBT professionals, the private sector is increasingly setting the standard and meeting Americans where they want to be: protecting their fellow citizens from anti-discrimination.