Setting the stage for workplace equality

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imageContributing blogger John Long is a professional career coach and consultant in Atlanta who founded Two Roads Resources. He blogs at Atlanta Career Coach.

Q: I consider myself lucky to actually like my job and my company. I work for a small consulting firm that’s experienced growth over the past several years, due in part to our niche market.

My employer never included “sexual orientation” in the company policy on equal employment opportunity or in any company sponsored harassment or diversity training. Should I ask the company’s leadership to include “sexual orientation” in our policies, since our staff has doubled in size compared to seven years ago?

A: Your situation is not uncommon for small, but growing, employers. Perhaps the topic of “sexual orientation” was never addressed in company policies due to an oversight or that it was deemed unnecessary for a small, collegial environment. But growth often spurs, even demands, change.

You may feel you have always been treated fairly at your company and therefore there is no need to make policy changes. Policies, though, should be proactive and realistically reflect current trends and challenges.

Consider that if you did address this issue with your employer, you might set a “win-win” scenario into motion for the company and staff Here are a few of the key questions and topics to carefully evaluate as you consider the issue:

Updated and expanded company policies representing an environment that respects diversity can send a positive message to job candidates and existing staff concerning company and workplace values.

There is strong potential to create an enhanced atmosphere of acceptance, respect and inclusion. An organization that promotes a broad definition of equality and equal opportunity sets the stage for a heightened level of open dialogue, understanding and morale throughout the workplace.

Are LGBT staff members currently receiving the same scope of benefits as their heterosexual co-workers? If not, do you want this to change?

Do you believe that LGBT employees are being evaluated fairly for choice assignments and promotions?

If a significant change in company leadership or ownership occurs, what will the new regime do?

“Separate but equal,” “don’t ask don’t tell” and the” illusion of inclusion” represent both antiquated thinking and the failure to recognize the strengths and contributions of workers from the LGBT community.

If you do decide to take some action, move forward from a position of strength with solid data to support your stance. Check these resources for additional information:

15 Steps to an Out & Equal Workplace

Study Illustrates Need for LGBT Anti-discrimination Laws

Out of the Office Closet

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