Issues in Sexual Orientation Discrimination

by on December 12, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Firm liable in gay-bias suit

Managers don’t have to approve of employees’ lifestyles. But here’s a reminder to keep their opinions to themselves – and instead enforce policies against sexual orientation discrimination.

A video retailer has agreed to pay $78,750 to a former employee harassed and taunted by coworkers because he’s gay. When the worker complained, a store manager cut his hours.

By the time headquarters got wind of this, it was too late.

Cite: Davis v. Blockbuster, Inc.

New federal law would protect gay, lesbian rights at work

Get ready for another round of federal legislation about sexual orientation discrimination.

Although it’s not a dead certainty, chances appear to be growing that Congress this year will vote to outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.

The proposed legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, has been around for more than a decade. But this year it looks as if the Democratic-controlled Congress may pass it, in some form.

For some of you, this won’t make a lot of difference. Many companies – an estimated 85% of the Fortune 500 – already bar bias against gays, lesbians and trans-gendered people. And 17 states have laws banning employers from terminating people on the basis of their sexual leanings.

More gays coming out could trigger sexual orientation discrimination lawsuits

People have strong feelings about gay marriage, domestic partnership and other hot-button social issues.

Debates are sure to heat up, as more gays take a stand on the issues. But remember, it’s HR’s job to shield the company from discrimination lawsuits, regardless of your personal opinions.

Comfort levels soar

Gay employees are more visible now than ever, according to a new poll by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive.

According to the poll:

    Today, 48% of gay workers feel comfortable displaying a picture of their partner at work. But in 2002, only 24% said they’d feel comfortable.
    More than half (54%) are comfortable discussing their social life at work, compared to just 35% in 2002.
    More than half (51%) are comfortable introducing their partner to co-workers. But in 2002, only 32% were comfortable doing that
    Nearly half (48%) are comfortable introducing their partner to the boss. That’s up from 32% in 2002.

Does your firm have a clear, written, well-distributed anti-discrimination policy that covers sexual preference as well as race, gender, age and national origin? Do you train line managers in sensitivity and respect for diversity? Do you encourage employees to treat one another with professionalism at all times?

If not, there’s never been a better time to start than right now.

Survey source: Harris Interactive.

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