Many of us are aware that it is illegal for employers to discriminate based on the well-known key EEOC areas: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information, and disability. What some are not aware of is that some states, including Colorado, have made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. This 2007 amendment to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act is known as the Sexual Orientation Employment Discrimination Act (SOEDA). This amendment prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s orientation towards heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, and transgender status (Federal Antidiscrimination Laws, 2011).
What considerations does the employer need to be aware of following the SOEDA Amendment? First of all, the employer should not inquire about the applicant’s sexual preference. Additionally, when advertising for an opening within the company, there should not be an expressed preference for a sexual orientation. It is prohibited for the company to have separate lines for progression or seniority status based on sexual orientation. Finally, the employer must allow employees to dress according to the gender in which the employee identifies with (Federal Antidiscrimination Laws, 2011).
Being aware and complying with this law is certainly important, but why not take it a step further and enhance the company’s support for LGBT by forming cultural norm? Did you know studies show that more than half of LGBT employees keep it a secret? This negatively affects morale and productivity! Here are just a few tips for your company to consider for showing acceptance for your LGBT employees (Anderson, 2011):
- Provide support inside and outside of the organization for LGBT through networking opportunities. This provides structured support which helps LGBT staff succeed within the organization.
- Ensure that information about partner benefits is clearly communicated to the LGBT staff. Often, LGBT employees are not aware of the benefits that their domestic partners may be eligible for.
- Using inclusive language often makes the LGBT employees feel more comfortable. For instance, if an organization is hosting a company party, encourage all employees to bring a “guest” rather than their “spouse.”
- Support LGBT events, either through donations or involvement of the organization in events.
- Highlight senior management support of LGBT employees. When senior management discusses the importance of diversity, it sends a strong and positive message when they include LGBT as well!
Dani Kimlinger, MHA, PHR
The State of Colorado. (2011). Federal Antidiscrimination Laws. Retrieved October 26, 2011, from http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheadername1=Content-Disposition&blobheadername2=Content-Type&blobheadervalue1=inline%3B+filename%3D%22Non-discrimination+Policy.pdf%22&blobheadervalue2=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1251741381222&ssbinary=true
Anderson, Melissa J. (2011, October 11). 1o Tips to Create an LGBT Supportive Workplace on National Coming Out Day [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.evolvedemployer.com/2011/10/11/10-tips-to-create-an-lgbt-supportive-workplace-on-national-coming-out-day/