Every year, during the month of June, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) community celebrates a movement of diversity, equality, education, and advocacy against discrimination and violence. Across the globe, various events are held during Pride Month in June as a way of recognizing the influence LGBTQ people have had around the world—including the workplace.
With more than 5 million working Americans identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, how can business owners tap into this large employment demographic and not only attract, but retain, this niche group of talent in the workplace?
In general, employers support workplace equality when they are hiring and retaining qualified applicants based on the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for the job they are applying for. They may not all realize that equal employment includes, and doesn’t limit LGBTQ individuals.
Regardless of state or local laws, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibition of sex discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, which is upheld by the Supreme Court. Society may be shifting towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ issues, but discrimination and bias are still reported.
An area where leaders have an opportunity to shift their workplace culture is in LGBTQ healthcare. Organizations like American Medical Association (AMA) include resources for LGBTQ-inclusion through their Journal of Ethics and adaptation of the GMLA’s Compendium of Health Profession Association LGBT Policy and Position Statements. Examples of such policies include enhancing diversity, promoting awareness and education of LGBTQ health issues, and equity in healthcare for domestic partnerships.
Here's where medical practices can set themselves apart. Some employers have decided to discontinue offering domestic partner coverage now that same-sex couples can get married. However, employees may face a dilemma in limiting benefits to those who choose to stay unmarried and are denied benefits. If organizations want to lead through inclusion, they need to consider the culture they want to employ before making changes to benefit packages. A way to do this is by creating all-encompassing and equitable benefits to all groups, no matter how family is defined. By setting a practice standard, this creates an opportunity to support a healthy and diverse workforce.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers by federal law to give eligible employees 12 consecutive weeks off for certain family and medical reasons. However, the U.S. Department of Labor has made it clear that FMLA doesn’t apply to LGBTQ workers because federal law does not recognize same-sex couples; therefore employers are not legally required to grant the same rights to LGBTQ employees. Thirty-seven states have no laws providing LGBT inclusion insurance protections. Thirteen states, in addition to Washington, D.C, have laws that prohibit health insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
To combat this workplace challenge, employers can craft unique employee benefit packages that include maternity and paternity leave, same-sex partner healthcare coverage options, and PTO and job-protection policies for family and medical leave for same-sex couples. Competitive employer-provided benefits’ packages help attract and retain top talent. Providing LGBTQ benefits to employees and their families can be a low-cost, high-return investment.
Cardinal Health in Dublin, Ohio, supports 50,000 employees in 60 countries and is ranked among the top 25 on the Fortune 500, offering a competitive benefits package that includes career planning, leadership development, mentorship, and tuition reimbursement. The provider of medical products and pharmaceuticals has been named Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign for 10 years and 100 Best Companies supporting female career advancement for the sixth time in 2017 by Working Mothers magazine. Offering better-than-average benefits to all practice employees encourages and promotes a positive work-life balance and opportunities to build successful careers.
Another opportunity for companies to think about when considering their recruitment and retention strategies is appeal to millennials. They are the largest generation in the workforce and according to a recent Gallup Poll, more than 8 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ. This makes them the largest LGBT generation in the workforce.
As millennials drive the LGBTQ population growth both in and out of the workplace, business owners need to bridge the gap between these two key workplace demographics with modern culture tactics, such as restructuring the traditional 9-5, offering work remote programs and incentives, provide life-value perks such as in-house dry cleaning and laundry services, implement transparent 360-degree operational standards, and provide leadership and professional growth workshops. These programs will foster an inclusive culture, drive overall employee satisfaction, retention and recruitment to positively impact the bottom line.
Shifting the culture in a workplace can help overcome challenges to workforce gaps. When the organizational design encourages empathy, perspective, and understanding, employees can build successful businesses. Workplaces who can inspire, motivate, and empower employees to encourage equality are the organizations that are going to lead this charge.
Kristin Byers brings more than 10 years of experience in human resources. With experience in both the private and public sector, Byers specializes in company policy, planning, programming, management, training and development, budget evaluation, and financial management. Her strong career proficiency across sectors enables her to efficiently implement expert solutions quickly and strategically for Seeker Solution’s clients as management consultant.