While same-sex couples can now legally marry in every state, LGBT people still face discrimination in many other areas of life.
LGBT people face employment discrimination everyday, but it doesn't have to be that way. Here are five tips to prevent LGBT employment discrimination and avoid lawsuits:
1. Create a Non-Discrimination Policy
An essential first step is to have a clear and up to date non-discrimination policy. Outline what kind of discriminatory behavior is unacceptable and describe what steps will be taken to address violations. If you do have a non-discrimination policy, great. However, when was the last time it was updated or any employees saw it?
If the policy is more than a few years old, take a look at it again to make updates and corrections.
2. Train Employees and Managers
Once you do have a non-discrimination policy, make sure your employees actually know about it -- especially your managers. Conduct training sessions on what kind of behavior is discriminatory, how to recognize signs of discrimination, how to avoid intentional and unintentional discrimination, etc.
Sure, the trainings may be costly or take time away from employees' time working. But just think how much you could potentially pay if an employee successfully sues you for employment discrimination.
3. Be Accommodating
Gender neutral policies involving bathrooms and uniforms are best. However, if you do have a gender specific uniform, allow transgender employees to wear the uniform of the gender that they identify with. The same applies to bathrooms.
4. Apply Policies Consistently
Does your business have strict policies that employees must follow? To avoid a discrimination lawsuit, make sure that those policies are applied fairly and consistently to all employees. The perception of certain policies being applied more harshly on LGBT employees, or even another specific group, could get you sued.
5. Address Complaints Fairly and Promptly
Despite all your efforts to avoid discrimination in the workplace, inevitably there will be some manager or other employee who doesn't follow protocol. While you can't prevent all complaints of discrimination, a prompt and proper response can go a long way to help you avoid being sued.
If an employee comes to you with a complaint, don't ignore it. Conduct a prompt investigation and consistently apply any disciplinary procedures outlined in your non-discrimination policy.
If you need help implementing a non-discrimination policy, or if you've been sued for employment discrimination, consult with an experienced business attorney for help.
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