Workplaces Benefit When Employees Identify as LGBT

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By Caryn Freeman

Nov. 4 — Employers must carefully navigate and update LGBT workplace policies and procedures, including allowing for LGBT employees to “self-identify,” practitioners told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 3.

LGBT self-identification is when an employee discloses his or her gender identity or sexual orientation to the employer.

Selisse Berry, founder and CEO of Out & Equal, an advocacy organization that partners with companies to ensure they have LGBT-inclusive workplace policies, said self-identification enables companies to measure the success of their diversity efforts and track LGBT employees for professional development opportunities.

Christopher Wilkinson, a partner at management-side law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's Washington office, also said having a process for LGBT employees to self-identify is important.

There are a couple of “hot-button legal issues” facing employers, he said. “The first issue, really, is on the sexual orientation front and if courts are going to accept the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's recent interpretation of Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] to protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said.

Review Domestic Partner Benefits

Because states can no longer restrict same sex marriage, another looming question for employers is whether they should “dial back” domestic partner benefits, said Wilkinson, who previously served as a senior civil rights and labor management lawyer for the Labor Department.

Employers should first review the “patchwork of state laws out there that protect, or do not protect, [employees] on the basis of sexual orientation” before rescinding domestic partner benefits in favor of spousal benefits, he said.

Berry said employers should include sexual orientation and gender identity in their internal non-discrimination policies, should support LGBT employee resources groups and should offer LGBT-specific diversity training.

Once companies roll out these policies domestically, they should implement them globally as well, she said. “Making that statement and rolling those policies out globally helps LGBT employees in countries around the world bring their own selves to work,” Berry said.

Wilkinson urged employers to review workplace policies specific to LGBT employees. “Employers really need to be looking at their bathroom usage policies, they need to be looking at their policies related to using pronouns in the workplace [and] they need to be looking at policies related to name changes in the workplace,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Caryn Freeman in Washington at cfreeman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com

For More Information 
A video of this interview is available at http://www.bna.com/navigate-lgbt-workplace-m57982063105/.