Under federal law, LGBT equality isn't mandated in employment practices. But that doesn't mean it's not important for your business.
The Human Rights Campaign just released its 2013 Corporate Equality Index, which focuses on how big corporations are addressing LGBT workplace-equality issues. As a small business owner whose reputation relies on how well you treat others (including your employees), you can use the Index as a guide on how to be more LGBT-friendly in your employment practices.
Even if you don't have (or don't know you have) LGBT employees, having fair and inclusive employment policies is good for staff loyalty and for avoiding potential lawsuits.
Employment discrimination based on certain protected categories is illegal for any business in the United States. That includes discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, and religion.
But it's not just federal anti-discrimination rules that are important.
Individual states also have their own employment-discrimination laws, and many prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Even if your state isn't one of them, having a more inclusive anti-discrimination policy can be a good thing.
For example, if a disgruntled ex-employee brings a discrimination claim, a well-written anti-discrimination policy can be a good first line of defense. Of course you'll also have to respond to the specific discrimination claims made by the ex-employee, but a good attorney can help with that.
For small business owners who aren't sure how to go about crafting policies that show LGBT equality, the HRC Index provides some insight. Examples include:
- Including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in anti-discrimination policies. That kind of language indicated that the companies are protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees from unfair employment decisions just like any other employee.
- Increasing your LGBT competency. Training your staff to use appropriate language, such as not using "gay" as an insult, is also a way to show employees that everyone will be treated fairly.
If you're hoping to use this information to update your anti-discrimination policy, check out FindLaw's sample anti-discrimination policies to get some inspiration. Your employees will appreciate it.
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