LGBTQ WORKPLACE RESOURCE GUIDE

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Half of LGBTQ+ employees remain closeted at work. Many fear that they will face discrimination and mistreatment if they come out. From finding inclusive companies, getting comfortable with the interview process, to coming out at work, here is a resource guide to help you navigate the corporate landscape as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ Rights At Work

No Statewide Protection
State Law Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
State Law Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Only For State Employees

Finding Inclusive Companies For The LGBTQ+ Community

Finding a job can be stressful and trying to find an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace on top of that can make things even harder. Here are four things to look for when you are job hunting to determine whether or not a company is LGBTQ+ friendly.

  1. Look beyond the rainbows. Watch out for rainbow washing. Some companies will put rainbows on their company website once a year during pride month and take it down immediately after without doing any tangible work to support their LGBTQ+ workers or the LBGTQ+ community. If you search for a company and see a picture of employees with a rainbow flag, this may be a good sign but make sure to look deeper.

  2. Look for an employer’s non-discrimination policy. Check to see if the company’s non-discrimination policy protects employees against discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Here are four steps to help you find this policy.

    • Look it up: The first thing that you can do is search online for an employer’s non-discrimination policy. An easy google search is “ [company name] non-discrimination policy”. Pairing “gender identity” or “sexual orientation” in a search with a company name can also bring you to a company’s non-discrimination policies.

    • Look at job postings: Employers will often put their non-discrimination policies at the end of job postings. You can look for language like “we are an equal opportunity employer” or “we encourage minorities to apply.”

    • Look at company websites:You can also go through an employer’s website. If you are overwhelmed by the amount of content on the website, searching the page for “gender” or “sexual orientation” can bring you to the right section.

    • Contact the company:If you are comfortable doing so, you can call or email the company and ask them if they have a non-discrimination policy and where can you find it. You can usually find a company’s phone number or email address on their website under the “contact us” section.

  3. Find out if the company has LGBTQ+ networks or affinity groups. The presence of these groups indicates that the company is a more inclusive place to work. Being a part of these groups can help you feel more heard and comfortable being your true self at your workplace.

  4. Look at the company’s benefits. More inclusive companies will usually have health coverage for transgender individuals. It can be very telling of a employer’s attitudes towards LGBTQ+ employees if their health coverage does not include transgender employees. To see if a company has transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage, you can reach out to the HR department at the company and ask what health insurance they provide. If the company does not have an HR department, you can find the company’s general email or phone number on their website under the “contact us” section and ask them. Once you have this information, contact the health insurance provider to find out if they provide coverage to transgender people. You can also look to see if the health insurance policy’s explanation of spouse includes same sex spouses and if it provides benefits to domestic partners.

Important things to remember when looking for LGBTQ+ inclusive health insurance:

The Affordable Care Act protects HIV+ individuals

The Affordable Care Act makes it so that no HIV+ individual can be dropped or denied health care coverage because of their status.

Medicaid could work for you

If your work does not provide you with health insurance and your income is under a certain threshold, you may qualify for medicaid which is the largest source of coverage for HIV+ people.

Look at Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

If your income is under a certain threshold you can look at Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program which provides HIV-related health services to low-income individuals. Almost half of people living with HIV use this program.

Same-sex spouses

If an insurance company offers health coverage to opposite-sex spouses, they are legally required to do the same for same-sex spouses.

ASK THE EXPERTS

How can you tell if a job environment fosters and rewards diversity?

Asif Khan is a development and tech professional focused on gender equality, tech for education, and economic development.

How can you tell if a job environment fosters and rewards diversity?


The first step is to look at organizations, groups, and network that prioritize hiring LGBTQ people. Out in Tech does a great job at finding companies for LGBTQ people. They kind of do the work for you. They have vetted all of these companies and it’s a given that they are LGBT friendly and are looking to hire LGBTQ people. There are similar organizations in different fields. So much happening in tech and other fields with diversifying the workforce and the future is exciting.


If you are comfortable out or coming out, the best way to find out about a work environment is to ask an HR person yourself. If you are comfortable, you can also ask your potential manager or the person interviewing you what the culture is like. You can ask “I identify as X, does your company culture support it?” In most cases they will want to make sure it does.


Do your research and find out what the company prioritizes. Google searches go a long way and allow you to see both good and bad press about the company. Negative press doesn’t necessarily mean the company is bad. They could have made mistakes in the past and changed.


LinkedIn is another great tool. You can reach out to someone on LinkedIn that works for the company you are interested in and ask them what their LGBT culture is like. Almost everyone likes to be contacted and made to feel important. The more homework you can do the better. I’ve been in the workforce for 12 years. I am gay and still am. The work environment was not anti LGBT for me but it wasn’t pro either. Today I am seeing young people so confident and expressive about their identity and the workforce has changed because of people like that.

Beck Bailey is the director of the workplace equality program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

How can you tell if a job environment fosters and rewards diversity?


One place to start is investigating the non-discrimination policies, practices and benefits of your potential employer. Looking at HRC’s Corporate Equality Index is one way to see how a workplace ranks on LGBGTQ equality. See if their non-discrimination policy specifically includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It is a good sign if it does. Because the law does not necessarily require employers to have non-discrimination policies, it is important to understand what the employer is doing to protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination and to foster a diverse work place. You can also look to see if the employer attends LGBTQ+ recruitment events. Employers at those events are good places to start looking.


Another thing that folks should do is look at the employer’s website. Many employers have diversity web pages now. You can look here to see if they talk about their efforts with the LGBTQ+ community. Once you are more engaged with the interview process, you may want to ask for an informational interview or to speak with an LGBTQ+ employee. That requires outing yourself. But, if you are comfortable with it, it would give you another way to see how the company treats LGBTQ+ employees.


When you are on the outside looking in, can be hard to see what a job environment is going to be like. To help you figure this out, you can look at how that company or employer engages with the community. Do you see them at pride? Are they doing philanthropic work involving LGBTQ+ inclusion?

Meenakshi Parashar is the Community and Events Coordinator of SPICY, a creative collective which focuses on empowering QOC and QTPOC through the intersections of art, activism, and publishing.

How can you tell if a job environment fosters and rewards diversity?


What I try to gauge is the level of transparency and communication that exists within an organization. It’s difficult to do so when you aren’t directly in the environment of that job, but personalized outreach and research can help uncover an organization’s environment. I’ve found it useful to research a company on LinkedIn and find employees to have informational interviews with. That way, you’re getting a first hand resource into the way an organization functions and have a chance to ask frank questions. It’s also important to see what kind of language an organization uses in its communication. For instance, do they ask you for your preferred pronouns in applications? Be sure to check what the HR system looks like and if there are employee support groups such as ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) where employees can collectively speak for themselves and call for action, or if an organization is unionized.

Noam Shelef is the Director Of Communications at Out & Equal.

How can you tell if a job environment fosters and rewards diversity?


A good starting point could be to look at whether a company has equal policies and benefits. For instance, do they include sexual orientation and gender identity in their global nondiscrimination and anti-harassment statements? Do they offer trans-inclusive healthcare? Do same-sex couples and their families get full, equal access to all company benefits?


More and more workplaces are making an effort to be welcoming to non-binary employees. You’ll notice that when they ask you what pronoun they should use for you, or when managers include their pronouns in their email signature.


Another indicator, especially at a large organization, is to see whether the company has an LGBTQ Employee Resource Group (ERG) and to find out whether the ERG is active in the location where you’ll be working.

Can you be fired for being gay?

In the United States, no federal law explicitly prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, 31 states do not have fully-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ workers. LGBTQ+ employees have tried invoking Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. But there is an ongoing debate about whether or not “sex” includes sexual orientation. On October 9th, 2019, The Supreme Court will decide if this act can be applied to cases of anti-LGBT discrimination and whether workers can be fired for being LGBT.

The following 17 states do not offer LGBT employees statewide protection, according to the movement Advancement Project.

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Unfortunately, on January 22, 2019 the Supreme Court let President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban to go into effect banning people diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving and making it so that people can only serve in accord to the sex they were assigned at birth, according to CNN.

LGBT civil rights hammer

Best LGBT Jobs

Finding an inclusive and accepting place to work can be difficult. Here are the best places to work for LGBTQ+ individuals to make your search a little easier.

Methodology: We looked at data from the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, their list of businesses with transgender-inclusive health insurance benefits, and Zippia’s database to measure the best places to work for LGBTQ+ individuals. In order for a company to make the list, they needed a Corporate Equality Index Rating of 100, to have transgender-inclusive health insurance benefits, and a Zippia score of 4.5 or greater.

To get a corporate equality index rating of 100 a company needs to score perfectly on workforce protections, inclusive benefits, supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility, and responsible citizenship.

To get a Zippia score of 4.5, a company needs to rank highly on salary/pay, company financial health, and diversity.

LGBT community side by side

In 1996, 4% of Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies. Today, 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies have inclusive policies the prohibit discrimination based on a individuals sexual orientation, according to Out & Equal.

Companies Taking Action To Create LGBTQ+ Jobs

It is important for businesses to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community. You can gauge how committed a company is by looking at their actions.Here is a list of the 12 top companies who are putting actions behind their support.

Methodology: Zippia looked at eight major lawsuits fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and what companies supported them. The companies who showed consistent support among the lawsuits made the list. Here are the 8 lawsuits.

2019 – Three cases will be heard by the Supreme Court on October 9th, 2019. Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda will answer whether Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimiation based on “sex”, also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC will determine whether Title VII applies to discrimination against transgender individuals.

2018 – Adams v. School Board of St. John’s County Florida. This case deals with a 16-year old who was denied access to the boy’s restroom in his school because he is transgender. It was argued that denying him access violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act.

2018 – Horton v. Midwest Geriatric Management. This case deals with a gay man whose job offer was withdrawn when a company discovered that he was gay. It was argued that the federal court should end employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

2017 – Altitude Express v. Zarda. This case deals with employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights act should prohibit discrimination based and sex and sexual orientation.

2017 – Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. This case deals with a woman who was harassed and fired from her job because of her sexual orientation. The case argued that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

2017 – Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This case deals with discrimination against LGBTQ people. This case argued that a business owner’s personal beliefs is not reason enough to discriminate against a customer.

2017 – G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. This case deals with a school denying a transgender student use of the boy’s restroom. The case argued that this violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

2013 – United States v. Windsor. This case deals with same-sex marriage. The case argued that The Defense Marriage Act, which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Interviewing

We all know that interviews are important. They are not only a way for the employer to find out about you, but also a way for you to discover things about them. Do not be afraid to ask the person interviewing you about the company’s culture or if they have any LGBTQ+ groups. Here are a few common questions members of the LGBTQ+ community have asked about interviewing.

Should I bring up LGBTQ+ volunteer and professional experiences in my interview?

Bring up any experience that strengthens your application and makes you a more qualified candidate. If you have had multiple roles in your past that showcase the same skills and qualifications as the LGBTQ+ related one, you can leave it out. That said, remember that you only have to share what you are comfortable with.

What if I am asked “are you married?”

It is prohibited by law to ask someone their marital status. That being said, feel free to share whether or not you are married if you are comfortable doing so. Be aware that the interviewer may then ask you who you are married to or say something along the lines of: “who is the lucky lady” or “what’s his name.” If you do not want to disclose your marital status, you can politely decline to answer the question.

Do I have to disclose my gender identity or sexual orientation?

Disclosing your gender identity or sexual orientation is completely optional and 100% your call. If you do decide to disclose this information during an online application process or as part of a questionnaire, it is confidential and not publicly available. If you disclose this information in an interview, this information is not confidential and the interviewer could tell other employees at the company.

Coming out at work

Choosing whether or not to come out at work can be a difficult decision. There is no right or wrong answer to when or if you should and both decisions are entirely your choice. Here is a list of some rewards and risks to help you with your decision.

Rewards

  • You no longer have to hide a large portion of who you are which also allows you to focus more on work.
  • You can answer questions about your personal life more freely.
  • You can form closer friendships with your co-workers and connect to other LGBTQ+ people at work.

Risks

  • Co-workers can discriminate against you.
  • People may look at and treat you differently. Unfortunately, not everyone is accepting and understanding.
  • Once you come out you cannot go back and change your mind.
53%

of LGBTQ workers report hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people at lease once in a while.

31%

of LGBTQ workers say they have felt unhappy or depressed at work/

LGBT worker statistics

Gay, lesbian, and LGBTQ+ discrimination on the job

Unfortunately, not every work environment is accepting of LGBTQ+ employees. The main reason that LGBTQ+ employees do not report negative comments about LGBTQ+ people is because they do not think that anything will be done about it, according to HRC. Your safety and comfort both in and out of your place of work is extremely important and should not be jeopardized for any reason. If your rights were violated at work and you want to take action, here is a list of legal resources that you can use.

Transgender legal information helpline

The Transgender Law Center has a legal information helpline that provides transgender people with information about laws and policies that affect them across a variety of areas including employment. They do not provide individualized legal advice or legal representation.

Legal information helpline

The National Center For Lesbian Rights provides free legal assistance through their legal helpline which you can reach by calling 1.800.528.6257 or 415.392.6257. If you are more comfortable with email, you can email them at info@NCLRights.org.

Lawyer referral service

Glad has a lawyer referral service which helps put you in contact with a lawyer and walks you through the process of acquiring and speaking to one. GLAD also provides general information about what your rights are and what steps you can take if they have been violated.

Legal service Network Directory

The National Center For Transgender Equality advocates for political and societal change in order to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people. They have a Legal service Network Directory that provides you with a list of legal help across the country.

Discrimination intake form.

If you want to report LGBTQ or HIV discrimination you can fill out the ACLU intake form.

Request legal assistance

Lambda Legal is a non-profit organization provides LGBTQ+ clients with free legal representation. If you want to talk about your options you can contact your local American Civil Liberties Union affiliate.

40 out gay, lesbian and bisexual women participated in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, according to Outsports.

LGBT people dancing

ASK THE EXPERTS

What should you do if you experience mistreatment in the workplace?

Asif Khan is a development and tech professional focused on gender equality, tech for education, and economic development.

What should you do if you experience mistreatment in the workplace?


There is this whole wave of making sure people are happy and productive at work. There are people whose jobs are to create a positive and inclusive company culture. An HR person will usually be your first point of contact. Reaching out is easier said than done because people don’t want to risk losing a job. But it is in your best interest to say something that has the potential to help you feel better in your work environment and change things within the company. If you are in a place that is not inclusive or open, in general, you will have underlying discriminatory comments. Let someone in HR know you feel uncomfortable. You can also stand up for yourself and let someone know that their comment was not appreciated or well taken. When a person is able to do that it can go a long way.


You can also file a complaint or concern anonymously. Many places have anonymous surveys on workplace satisfaction. If you don’t want to put your name out jeopardizing your career, you can do it this way. It’s tough but if you want to progress and be somewhere that is conducive to you and your growth you have to do it.

Beck Bailey is the director of the workplace equality program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

What should you do if you experience mistreatment in the workplace?


They can start with the mechanisms that the company has in place for resolving complaints. This depends on where you work. A good first step is to go to your company’s HR department. The employer may have an anonymous way to reach HR or you can submit a non-anonymous complaint. HR is not the only resource you have. If I am being mistreated by my colleague, I might go to my boss. If I am being mistreated by my boss, I might go to HR. If after this you are not finding resolutions, you may need a lawyer or outside guidance depending on how things are.


You can also look to see if the company has other complaint or conflict resolution systems such as an organizational Ombuds. These can be a good way to get confidential assistance on a variety of things such as harassment, discrimination, and unfair treatment.

Meenakshi Parashar is the Community and Events Coordinator of SPICY, a creative collective which focuses on empowering QOC and QTPOC through the intersections of art, activism, and publishing.

What should you do if you experience mistreatment in the workplace?


What I try to gauge is the level of transparency and communication that exists within an organization. It’s difficult to do so when you aren’t directly in the environment of that job, but personalized outreach and research can help uncover an organization’s environment. I’ve found it useful to research a company on LinkedIn and find employees to have informational interviews with. That way, you’re getting a first hand resource into the way an organization functions and have a chance to ask frank questions. It’s also important to see what kind of language an organization uses in its communication. For instance, do they ask you for your preferred pronouns in applications? Be sure to check what the HR system looks like and if there are employee support groups such as ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) where employees can collectively speak for themselves and call for action, or if an organization is unionized.

Finding an LGBTQ Community

You are never alone. There are hundreds of LGBTQ+ community centers, advocacy and support groups, legal support resources, health care and HIV/AIDS organizations, and social activities across the country.

There are many benefits to finding and joining LGBTQ+ groups. People in these groups often share personal experiences and are able to offer each other emotional support that they cannot get in other places. Here is a list of various groups. Take a look at the ones in your state and see if there are any that interest you!

National Center for Transgender Equality

Nationwide

Advocacy

The National Center for Transgender Equality advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people.

National LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Nationwide

Business

The NGLCC is the business voice of the LGBT community, the largest advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people, and the exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses.

National LGBT Health Education Center

Nationwide

Health Care

The National LGBT Health Education Center provides educational programs, resources, and consultation to health care organizations.

GLAD

Nationwide

Legal

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England.

SAGE

Nationwide

Advocacy

SAGE advocates for LGBT seniors. They make aging better for LGBT people nationwide. They show up and speak out for the issues that matter to them.

PFLAG

Nationwide

Advocacy

Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality.

It Gets Better Project

Nationwide

Youth

The It Gets Better Project is a nonprofit organization with a mission to uplift, empower, and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth around the globe.

Creating an inclusive workplace

It is important to create an LGBTQ+ friendly environment that fosters and rewards diversity. Studies have shown that employees who do not have to hide their gender identity or sexual orientation are happier and more productive than those who hide it. When employees are able to be open about these things, co-workers also become more productive. Another added bonus to creating a more LGBTQ+ inclusive work environment is that a company can save money by avoiding LGBTQ+ employees quitting and moving to other employers.

Here are seven things you can do to make your workplace a more inclusive, comfortable, and productive place for LGBTQ+ employees.

  1. Provide bathroom access: For many transgender and non-binary employees, access to a bathroom is a constant worry. Having a gender neutral bathroom in your workplace helps promote a safer, more inclusive work environment. Remember, two gendered single use restrooms can easily be converted into two gender neutral restrooms.

  2. Create/support LGBTQ+ affinity groups: Starting and supporting LGBTQ+ affinity groups is a great way to help create a community and safe space within your workplace. These groups allow employees to come together, share common experiences, and support one another. As an employer, you can also schedule office wide LGBTQ+ events to get other people in your office involved.

  3. Provide equal health insurance for all employees: Make sure that your insurance provides medical support for transgender employees. Also make sure that your health insurance policy’s explanation of spouse includes same sex spouses and that it provides benefits to domestic partners.

  4. Have a non-dscrimination policy and display it: Your company should have a non-discrimination policy which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Having a policy is not enough. You need to enforce the policy you put into place, make sure employees are following it, and have consequences if the policy is violated.

  5. Educate your workforce: Once you have a non-discrimination policy in place, you need to train your employees and help them understand it. Having a policy will not change the way your employees behave if they do not know about and understand it. One important thing to talk to employees about is what gender identity and sexual orientation are. This training should be paired with other actions that work towards equality and fair treatment such as having inclusive HR policies and improving recruitment strategies.

  6. Ask an expert: You may not know enough about the LGBTQ+ community to effectively create inclusive policies and educate your workforce. You can ask an outside expert to help you with these things. There are many organizations and people who specialize in creating LGBTQ+ friendly working environments.

  7. Listen to your employees: Be receptive to employee feedback. If an LGBTQ+ employee approaches you to discuss what you can do to improve the workplace LISTEN. Create an environment and culture where employees are not afraid to speak up and advocate for themselves and others. Again, listen to employees when they speak up about being mistreated, discriminated against, or harassed and take the necessary steps to deal with the issue in the way that the employee is comfortable with and wants.

  8. A report from Out Now found that in most countries measured, when LGBT workers felt able to be open with their co-workers their productivity increased by over 25%.

LGBT workplace comparison

Ask the Experts

How can employers make their workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly?

Asif Khan is a development and tech professional focused on gender equality, tech for education, and economic development.

How can employers make their workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly?


DoSomething.org does a great job at this. We work with different LGTQ companies, run campaign, and spotlight LGBTQ people. We just did a campaign about pride where people shared how to be a better ally.


Even before you focus on internal culture put your money where your mouth is. Look at Coca Cola who is showing same sex couples in their advertisements. Internally, making sure that people have the option to use their preferred pronouns is easy to do and goes a long way. Starting a meeting by introducing yourself with preferred pronouns or including them in your email signature shows others that they are in a place where people can come regardless of their identity.


You can also make sure that there is diversity within the outside speakers you bring to your office. If you have a speaker series have an out LGBT person come in. They don’t necessarily have can talk about LGBTQ+ issues but have them introduce themselves as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a way to make your support more visible and to let people know that they are in an accepting place. Not everyone is going to want to be out at work and that is fine. But they should know that if they want to they would be accepted and comfortable.

Beck Bailey is the director of the workplace equality program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

How can employers make their workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly?


Beyond having a non-discrimination workplace policy, a company needs to do more in regards to education and cultural change. This is anything from addressing unconscious biases, understanding the LGBTQ+ community, to providing training for the broader workforce. Training and education happen through many mechanisms. It could be part of the formal on-boarding training for employees or managers. The company may also hold lunch and learns where LGBTQ+ experts speak with the broader workforce.


There are many other changes that employers can make to signal their inclusion of LGBTQ people. For example, when you do data collection, if you only have a way for people to show their gender as male or female, you are not signaling for people who are non-binary or gender non-conforming to feel included, so you need to have expanded gender options. Another example is to have a dress code that is gender neutral and more inclusive of everyone.

Meenakshi Parashar is the Community and Events Coordinator of SPICY, a creative collective which focuses on empowering QOC and QTPOC through the intersections of art, activism, and publishing.

How can employers make their workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly?


Listen to your employees. Encourage transparency and open communication. The best way to have a queer friendly environment is to have your queer employees tell you what their needs are out of a safe and friendly working environment. There should be a clear process into how a queer employee can voice their opinions. Empathy and sensitivity training is a key especially for people who might not be as aware or educated on queer identity. A company should exist to uplift its employees rather than be domineering and hierarchical. An employee should feel like they are speaking to an equal and therefore not feel intimidated when speaking to a fellow employee.

Noam Shelef is the Director Of Communications at Out & Equal.

How can employers make their workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly?


My organization, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, partners with large companies to help them with this issue. We’ve summarized some of the best practices in a guide that we call, “20 Steps to an Out & Equal Workplace.”


The steps that we’ve identified there fall into the buckets of policies and benefits, talent management, workplace climate, community commitment, and corporate responsibility. There are things that a company can do in each of these spheres that really make a difference in building a culture of belonging where all employees are able to show up as their full authentic selves.


It bears mention that many of these items are not a one-and-done deal. Rather, it takes an ongoing investment of effort. Employees are smart and they can usually tell when leadership is genuinely committed to having a healthy climate.

LGBT Ally

An ally is someone who supports and respects LGBTQ+ people. An active ally takes action to support and respect members of the LGBTQ+ community. Here are a few things to remember as an ally.

  • Ask Questions: Do not assume that you know what a member of the LGBTQ+ community wants or needs. Ask someone what they need from you and if they say nothing respect that. There will be times where you have questions about something. Do not be afraid to ask someone if they are comfortable answering. Just because someone is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, does not mean that they have all of the answers to everything involving the LGBTQ+ community or that they are comfortable and willing to answer all of your questions.

  • Introduce yourself using pronouns: When introducing yourself to other people use your preferred pronouns: she, her, hers; he, him, his; they, them, theirs etc. For example, you can say: hi, my name is X and I use X pronouns. By introducing yourself using your preferred pronouns you are letting people know your preference and also creating a dialogue where other people can share theirs more comfortably. Do not assume you know someone’s preferred pronouns. To avoid misgendering someone before you know their preferred pronouns use gender neutral ones or just say that person’s name. You should also include your preferred pronouns in your email signature to further signal that you are in an accepting workplace.

  • Speak up: If you hear something say something. Unfortunately, you cannot eliminate prejudice and hate. However, you can speak up against it when it is safe to do so and you are not jeopardizing your physical safety. Regardless of whether or not someone makes a homophobic comment unconsciously or without hurtful intent, you should explain to them why what they are saying is hurtful and ask them to stop.

  • Be informed: Learn about what it is like to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the struggles that they face, and the history of LGBTQ+ discrimination wherever you live. You should also learn about different terms and what they mean. For example, what is gender identity and sexual orientation and how are they different?

  • Recognize that not everyone in the LGBTQ+ community is the same: It is important to realize that not everyone in the LGBTQ+ community is the same. LGBTQ+ includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and many other groups of people including non-binary and pansexual individuals. Individuals deal with their own sets of challenges and have different and unique experiences.

  • Avoid tokenizing: An individual is more than what they identify as. Your “gay friend” is just your “friend” and it is important to view them as such. It is also important to remember that not all members of the LGBTQ+ community are experts on all things relating to LGBTQ+ or obligated to explain them to others.

Many organizations that support members of the LGBTQ+ community rely on the generosity of others. You can show your support by donating to the following organizations.

The National Center For Lesbian Rights

The National Center For Lesbian Rights was the first national LGBTQ legal organization. They are a non-profit public litigation law firm that provides free legal assistance to LGBTQ people.

Transgender Law Center

The Transgender Law Center is the largest trans-led organization in the U.S . Their mission is to create a place for all people to live safely and authentically through changing laws, policies, and attitudes.

National Center For Transgender Equality

The National Center For Transgender Equality advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people.

GLAD

GLAD is a group of legal advocates and defenders. Among many things they help ensure that LGBTQ and HIV+ people acquire employment and remain employed without bias or harassment.

SAGE

SAGE advocates for LGBT seniors. They created the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging which is the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender older adults.

PFLAG

PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy.

Pride at Work

Pride at Work is a nonprofit organization that represents LGBTQ union members and their allies. They are an officially recognized constituency group of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations) that organizes mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBTQ Community to further social and economic justice.

It Gets Better Projects

The It Gets Better Project inspires people across the globe to share their stories and remind the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth that hope is out there, and it will get better.

The Trevor Project

Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

LGBT Educational Resources

LGBT youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth, according to The Trevor Project.

LGBT youth versus heterosexual youth statistic

4 in 10 LGBT youth say that they live in a community that is not accepting of LGBT people, according to HRC.

LGBT youth community acceptance statistic

Ask the Experts

What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ individuals navigating the job finding process?

Asif Khan is a development and tech professional focused on gender equality, tech for education, and economic development.

What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ individuals navigating the job finding process?


It’s important to remember that being LGBTQ is a huge benefit in the workplace. LGBTQ people have a lot of spending power and influence. People who appreciate them and want a more inclusive society will support diverse companies. I am a forever optimist with these things. Look at identifying as LGBT as the opposite of a disability.


Flip the script and realize that you are an asset.

Beck Bailey is the director of the workplace equality program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ individuals navigating the job finding process?


Look at how companies interact in the community. For example, think of a small local restaurant. If that restaurant donated to support the local LGBTQ center, that is a good clue that they are inclusive. Beyond that, you should look for other signals or ask other questions about where the company is in regards to LGBTQ+ inclusion.


Every person has to decide for themselves whether they want to be out in the job finding process. At HRC, we really uphold the value of self-determination. Maybe you were part of an LGBTQ organization in college. You have to decide if you want to be out on your resume or if you want to remove or change it so it is not readily apparent. There are reasons that being out can be an asset and ways it can also be a liability. How the employer interacts with you when you are out can be telling if they are a good fit. In the end, people need to judge for themselves how to approach it.

Meenakshi Parashar is the Community and Events Coordinator of SPICY, a creative collective which focuses on empowering QOC and QTPOC through the intersections of art, activism, and publishing.

What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ individuals navigating the job finding process?


Do all the research you can about an organization. You deserve to work somewhere where you feel safe and represented. It’s also good to network by going to queer focuses events where you can meet people who are working in queer friendly spaces. This connection then gives you a good “in” when applying to an organization.

Devon Feuer
Devon Feuer
Author
Asif Khan
Asif Khan
Interviewed Expert
Beck Bailey
Beck Bailey
Interviewed Expert
Meenakshi Parashar
Meenakshi Parashar
Interviewed Expert
Noam Shelef
Noam Shelef
Interviewed Expert