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Workplace Issues: Out at Work


LGBTQ Workplace Equality

Battling Blindspots in Corporate Culture

Transgender Issues: Transitioning in the Workplace

New Study Reveals Most LGBT Inclusive Companies
How LGBT Friendly Are US Companies?

How to Come Out and Start Up in Business

Companies Seeking Gay Pride Sponsorships

Why Coming Out is Good Business

The Lesbian Employment Gap

Gay Voice at the Workplace: Confidence Conundrum

California Launches Jobs Program for Trans People

Federal Employee Would Rather Be Fired Than Watch LGBT Diversity Video

Transitioning at Work Doesn’t Have to be a Nightmare


Career Counseling With LGBT Clients

What should practitioners know about their LGBT clients?  Posted here are tools and resources for counselors, teachers, and trainers who provide career counseling to LGBT clients.

Research: Career Counseling With LGBT Clients

Prezi SlideShow: Career Counseling With LGBT Clients

Research: LGBT Career Development

Article: Culturally Appropriate Career Counseling With Gay and Lesbian Clients

SlideShow: LGBT Youth Career Counseling

NCDA Article: Career Decision Making and LGBT Clients


Gay Voice at the Workplace

Conrad Liveris / Advocate Magazine
May 2016

Trying to be authentic in the office can be a struggle when you operate in a straight man's world.  In the back of my mind I hear a persistent fear: Do I sound too gay?  I know this is a question I shouldn’t care about, yet it sits there. The question makes me attempt a very "straight" view of confidence — especially at work.

When I enter a meeting, I deepen my voice. I make long strides to show my confidence. And I will talk about my interests in investments and sports, rather than those in the arts and baking. I was called out on it recently.  A client I meet with regularly saw me talking to someone at a networking event. He came over and said it was as if I was a different person. I'm very relaxed around him and I definitely wasn’t at this event. Pointedly, he asked, "Do you think being more masculine correlates with career success?"

This confrontation spurred a series of thoughts: What am I hiding? Who am I trying to please? What do I want to achieve by doing this?  The truth is that I am hiding myself, pleasing no one, and getting nowhere. I am the first to attest that my personality is nuanced and takes many forms, and I aim, sometimes unsuccessfully, to be undeniably me. By second-guessing myself and the respect of others, I am reducing myself. It's my fault for not trusting others to consider me an equal.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner." When I adjust my personality to fit into another’s expectation I fall into a trap of my own making. I'm also assuming the worse of them; not trusting them to take me as I am.

I'm far from the only gay or bi man who fights this fight daily, especially in situations where we're outnumbered by straight people, especially men. A 2012 University of California, Los Angeles, study found, "Some gay men are preoccupied with traditional notions of masculinity and express negative feelings towards effeminate behavior in gay men. Various scholars have speculated that such attitudes by gay men reflect internalized negative feelings about being gay."

There is no denying that LGBT people face discrimination for being themselves, especially at work. We've all seen it, whether it's gay jokes or outright harassment. In kowtowing to this homophobia — and compensating by acting more "masculine" — we help cement the idea that there is one way to be a man, and anything else won't be taken seriously.

Gay men in their 20s and 30s have been given the privilege of seeing a generation of LGBT people live out and proud. It falls to us to champion greater inclusion for the next generation by living authentically — even if that means everyone knowing you dig guys the second you open your mouth.


(From: Advocate Magazine)




Gay Voice at the Workplace: Confidence Conundrum


Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Message From President Barack Obama:

Congress Needs to Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

November 2013


Here in the United States, we're united by a fundamental principle: we're all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That's America's promise.

That's why, for instance, Americans can't be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs -- not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are. It's offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.

That's why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has strong bipartisan support and the support of a vast majority of Americans. It ought to be the law of the land. Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done. Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay -- or the accountant who does your taxes, or the mechanic who fixes your car? If someone works hard every day, does everything he or she is asked, is responsible and trustworthy and a good colleague, that's all that should matter.

Business agrees. The majority of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses already have nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees. These companies know that it's both the right thing to do and makes good economic sense. They want to attract and retain the best workers, and discrimination makes it harder to do that. So too with our nation. If we want to create more jobs and economic growth and keep our country competitive in the global economy, we need everyone working hard, contributing their ideas, and putting their abilities to use doing what they do best. We need to harness the creativity and talents of every American.

So I urge the Senate to vote yes on ENDA and the House of Representatives to do the same. Several Republican Senators have already voiced their support, as have a number of Republicans in the House. If more members of Congress step up, we can put an end to this form of discrimination once and for all. Passing ENDA would build on the progress we've made in recent years. We stood up against hate crimes with the Matthew Shepard Act and lifted the entry ban for travelers with HIV. We ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so our brave servicemen and women can serve openly the country they love, no matter who they love. We prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals that receive federal funding, and we passed the Violence Against Women Act, which includes protections for LGBT Americans. My Administration had stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that discriminatory law. Now we're implementing that ruling, giving married couples access to the federal benefits they were long denied. And across the nation, as more and more states recognize marriage equality, we're seeing loving couples -- some who have been together for decades -- finally join their hands in marriage.

America is at a turning point. We're not only becoming more accepting and loving as a people, we're becoming more just as a nation. But we still have a way to go before our laws are equal to our Founding ideals. As I said in my second inaugural address, our nation's journey toward equality isn't complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. In America of all places, people should be judged on the merits: on the contributions they make in their workplaces and communities, and on what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the content of their character." That's what ENDA helps us do. When Congress passes it, I will sign it into law, and our nation will be fairer and stronger for generations to come.


(From Pres. Barack Obama / Huffington Post)



Huffington Post: Congress Needs to Pass ENDA

US News: Should Congress Pass ENDA?
CBS News: ENDA Makes Progress in Senate

Wikipedia: What is ENDA?


Workplace Issues: Out at Work


Same Sex Partner Benefits Growing in Fortune 500 Companies

LGBT People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination

LGBT Employees Still Face Discrimination

Out of Work for Being Out at Work

LGBT Workplace Discrimination is Common

ACLU and LGBT Workplace Rights

Southern Companies Evolving on LGBT Rights


LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill Under Discussion

June 2012


US Senate Bill 811


"It is long past time to eliminate bigotry in the workplace and to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans.  It is time to make clear that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans are first class citizens.  They are full and welcome members of our American family and they deserve the same civil rights protections as all other Americans.  It is time for us to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Such discrimination is wrong and should not be tolerated."

-Senator Tom Harkin


The Senate Health and Labor Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin, holds a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would create a federal ban on discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people in the workplace. The measure has been introduced in every congressional session since 1994. Committee Chair Tom Harkin (Democrat) has served as a Senator for Iowa for 36 years.  His state is one of only 7 states that allow same-sex marriages.  His remarks at the senate hearing in support of workplace equality for LGBT workers are worthy of acclaim.


The witness panel included one openly transgender person, Kylar Brodus, founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition, whose personal story is most compelling. Also included on the panel was Ken Charles, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills Inc., whose supportive comments are worth hearing.


Recently, the White House angered LGBT advocates when it decided against issuing an executive order blocking same-sex discrimination by federal contractors. The Obama administration then came out in favor of ENDA, though there seems unlikely that the employment discrimination bill will pass in this session of Congress.


Witnesses included: M. V. Lee Badgett, Research Director, Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, University of California at Los Angeles; Samuel Bagenstos, Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Ken Charles, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion, General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Craig Parshal, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Religious Broadcasters Association, Manassas, Virginia.




C-SPAN Video: Senate Hearing on ENDA

NGLTF Blog: General Mills Speaks Out for ENDA
Kansas City Star: Federal Ban on Job Bias
Metro Weekly: Senate Hearing Includes Trans, Business and Legal Witnesses
Washington Blade: First Transgender Person to Testify at US Senate
Huffington Post: For Gays It's Still the Economy Stupid


Top Gay Friendly Companies

According to the HRC Corporate Equality Index for 2016, these companies are among the ones that earned a perfect score regarding their support of LGBT employees.


Top Gay Friendly Companies

Do you work for a gay-friendly company?


We all grow up imagining the exciting careers will will have as adults. We find our interests, focusing on our happiness and paths to success. Often, our career choices require us to work for a large company and sometimes we end up there out of necessity.

We become so focused on our careers and making a living that we often don't anticipate discrimination towards gays in the workplace. We are suddenly faced with the difficult decision of coming out at work or revealing our sexual orientation to co-workers. We ponder over many questions: Should I come out? How will I be treated by my peers? Will I get passed up for a promotion because I am gay? Does my partner qualify for my benefits? Is there a gay organization at work?

To help assist us in finding a gay-friendly work environment with positive answers to many of these questions, the
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) evaluated the policies and practices of over 300 companies, scoring them for their "friendliness" toward gay, lesbian and bisexual employees and their partners.


What Was the Criteria?

Companies must be either a Fortune 500 company, One of the 200 largest privately held companies from Forbes Private 500, or other companies with at least 500 employees.

HRC doesn't evaluate universities, government employers, non-profits or companies with fewer than 500 employees.

How Were Companies Rated?

Companies were rated based on the following factors:

Have a written non-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation in their employee handbook or manual.

Have a written non-discrimination policy covering gender identity and/or expression in their employee handbook or manual.

Offer health insurance coverage to employees' same-sex domestic partners.

Officially recognize and support a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employee resource group; or would support employees' forming a GLBT employee resource group if some expressed interest by providing space and other resources; or have a firm-wide diversity council or working group whose mission specifically includes GLBT diversity.

Offer diversity training that includes sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression in the workplace

Engage in respectful and appropriate marketing to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and/or provide support through their corporate foundation or otherwise to GLBT or HIV/AIDS-related organizations or events.

Engage in corporate action that would undermine the goal of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


The companies were rated on a scale from 0 to 100. Each factor was weighted equally with the exception of number 4, which gave only half credit to companies that had no GLBT resource group.

(From Ramon Johnson)


Career Counseling for LGBT College Students

Cornell LGBT Career Resources

Union College LGBT Career Resources

Univ Penn LGBT Career Planning & Job Search Guide

Dean College LGBT Career Resources

Northwest State LGBT Career Resources

Rutgers LGBT Career Resources


LGBT Job Market and Workplace Resources

Organizations & Websites:


Pro Gay Jobs

Out For Work

National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

Out and Equal

Center for Gender Sanity

Pride at Work

Out Professionals

National Organization of Gay & Lesbian Scientists & Technical Professionals

Echelon LGBT Business Magazine

HRC Corporate Equality Index

HRC Municipal Equality Index
Pride Not Prejudice: Discrimination in the Workplace
Workplace Discrimination: We Give a Damn

Stat Up Smart: Tips for a Gay-Friendly Workplace


Books & Publications:


Gay Issues in the Workplace (Brian McNaught)

The Corporate Closet (James Woods & Jay Lucas)

100 Best Companies for Gays & Lesbians (Ed Mickens)
Straight Jobs, Gay Lives (Annette Friskopp & Sharon Silverstein)
Lavender Road to Success: Career Guide for the Gay Community (Kirk Snyder)

Gay Men, Straight Jobs (Dan Woog)


Career Counseling With LGBT College Students

As a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) student preparing for entry into the workforce, you may find yourself faced with additional career planning challenges related to your sexual orientation. For the most part, university life has been a supportive environment, with a wonderful LGBT resource center, an active LGBT student group, lots of LGBT-related activities and events, and university-backed non-discrimination policies. The workplace can be quite different, in terms of the openness of and support for LGBT employees.




Coming out is a personal decision. It is up to you to determine how important it is to be out and under what circumstances. For many people, their sexual orientation is such an integral part of their identity that to remain closeted in the workplace would seem false. Others, however, might prefer to maintain separation between their personal and professional lives, only sharing information about their orientation with close friends. Hiding one's identity could lead to feelings of lowered self-esteem and frustration at leading a dual life; being openly gay could lead to discrimination, harassment, or even the loss of one's job. There is no "right" answer.


What has been your level of involvement within LGBT activities and the community? Are most of your friends, peers and support networks LGBT-connected? If you have a partner, is he or she out in most situations? The strength of your identification and level of past commitment to the LGBT community may be a deciding factor in whether or not to come out in the workplace and how visible to be. Your attitudes about this are likely to change throughout your lifetime. Each time you change jobs, in fact, you will likely re-evaluate your feelings about being out.


Many people believe that the only way to gain widespread acceptance is to be out and visible, whereas others prefer to express their political beliefs in a less direct, more personal manner. The bottom line is that for now you must decide what is best for you.




The industry to which you are applying for jobs might be more or less accepting of LGBT employees than others, although you should not generalize prior to researching a specific organization. Prior to the interview, you should try to research an organization's official policies and resources. Use printed and on-line resources (HRC, PFLAG, ALGBTIC) to look up organizations' LGBT employee groups, non-discrimination policies, and domestic partnership benefits. Contact the employee group and talk to current staff about the organizational climate, which goes beyond the formal policies. What is it really like to work there?


If your job search takes you to unfamiliar geographic regions, try to find out if the future work site is located in a state, county, city or community that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (which sets a general tone of acceptance, or at least tolerance). There might be regional or municipal workplace groups for LGBT individuals, even if there may not be one for a particular organization; these types of associations are invaluable for networking. In the absence of employee groups, contact bookstores, gay-owned businesses, and the like, to learn more about the region you are targeting. Take advantage of the LGBT networks that are widely accessible through Gay Yellow Pages, online, and so forth.  You may also try to identify LGBT alumni who are willing to provide advice and information to current students.




Should LGBT-related activities be included on the resume? Consider your audience and determine ahead of time how out you want to be. If you are applying for a "gay" job (Lobbyist for NGLTF, Researcher for HRC), then the LGBT experiences can be an obvious advantage. But what about other types of jobs? The skills you developed as a result of participation in LGBT organizations are likely to be of interest to many employers, although the organizations in which you participated may be viewed with less enthusiasm by some. To help evaluate the policies and climates of various organizations and industries, conduct a bit of research prior to writing your resume.


As with any potentially controversial group affiliation, such as political or religious activities, you will want to weigh the pros and cons of including such information. One strategy is to simply omit any reference to LGBT organizations or activities. Some recruiters, even gay ones, have said that such information can be extraneous, especially if social activities are summarized rather than skills and achievements. If you do choose to include LGBT-related information on your resume, be certain to put the emphasis on accomplishments that are relevant to employers. Highlight leadership, budgeting, event planning, public speaking and organizational skills. While highlighting skills, you might "downplay" the nature of the organization in which you developed those skills. One option is to use an acronym rather than spelling it out, but be prepared during an interview to explain what the acronym stands for. Another approach is to list the organization as an "Anti-Discrimination Organization" or “Diversity Group,” and then document your accomplishments from this experience.


Another strategy is the use of a "functional" resume, one that groups accomplishments in student organizations together according to functions/skills rather than by organization name. An example of this would be to list things you do well such as money management, fundraising, and bookkeeping under a heading of "Business Skills." This provides a way to highlight leadership, planning, teamwork, and other skills, while de-emphasizing where you developed them. Regardless of which strategy you utilize on the resume, you will still need to be prepared for questions during an interview.




As with writing a resume, you should think ahead of time about how out you are ultimately willing to be during the interview process. Preparing for interviews is critical. If you have not yet researched the firm, you should do so before walking into the interview. Once you have information about an organization's policies and climate, you have additional information to help make the decision about whether or not to come out during the interview. Because an interview is a process of evaluating you, and because you rarely know the attitudes of an interviewer ahead of time, you do run the risk of encountering someone whom might evaluate you negatively (consciously or unconsciously), regardless of company policies.


Depending on the strategies you have used to present LGBT-related activities on your resume, you might have already given the interviewer some indications that you are bisexual, gay, or lesbian. If that is the case, you should be prepared to talk about how your experiences have developed desirable leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills. You do not want to be caught off guard, appearing unprepared or even embarrassed about your background. An interviewer might ask, "I see you were president of the Allies Student Group for two years. Can you tell me what kind of organization it is?" If you have decided to be out, you can respond with a simple description. If you have chosen not to come out yet, you may want to refer to it as an anti- discrimination organization and then focus on the achievements as a result of your work.


If you have excluded "gay-related" experiences from your resume, then you might not even mention them during the interview; your focus could be mainly on those experiences already highlighted. Many people decide to wait to come out until after receiving a job offer, when candidates have more leverage, or until after starting a new job, where people can come out to coworkers on their own terms.


You could "test the waters" with an interviewer by asking about the organization's diversity initiatives. Does the recruiter's reply include mention of issues pertaining to sexual orientation? To be more direct, you might ask, "Can you tell me more about diversity in the workplace and related policies, as they might deal with race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and the like?" These should not be your first questions during an interview. Focus on the job and your capabilities first. Make the company want to hire you. After you have convinced them you are the right one for the job, then make inquiries about policies regarding LGBT issues.




Coming out to a potential supervisor and coworkers might seem even more intimidating than coming out during the interview process; after all, you will have to spend a majority of you time with your coworkers. Look for clues around the office.  Do you see any same-gender pictures or information on employee bulletin boards that might hint at the office culture? Is the work group diverse in other ways? Will you be working with lots of other twenty-something employees? In general, "younger" organizations tend to be more comfortable with diversity. In addition, even though it is hard to generalize, certain industries (many software companies) and certain geographic locations (San Francisco, Seattle) are known for being gay-friendly.


In general, it may be best at first to focus on the job, learning more about expectations for your performance, and establishing yourself as a professional. Many people believe that when you are coming out to anyone, in any situation, you should just use your best judgment and comfort level. You might prefer people get to know you first, with the coming out process evolving more from day to day interactions and discussions. The question, "So, what did you do this weekend?" might become easier to answer once you have already established some friendships.


Although some coworkers may choose to avoid your company in more social situations, the majority will simply accept you for the value of your work and your contributions. Again, the bottom line is that you must decide what will be most comfortable to you.



Career Counseling With LGBT Clients

What should practitioners know about their LGBT clients?  Posted here are tools and resources for counselors, teachers, and trainers who provide career counseling to LGBT clients.

Research: Career Counseling With LGBT Clients

Prezi SlideShow: Career Counseling With LGBT Clients

Research: LGBT Career Development

Article: Culturally Appropriate Career Counseling With Gay and Lesbian Clients

SlideShow: LGBT Youth Career Counseling

NCDA Article: Career Decision Making and LGBT Clients


Competencies for Providing Career Counseling to LGBT Clients

The national LGBT counseling organization, ALGBTIC, has issued their official statement of competencies for providing career counseling for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning individuals.  According to ALGBTIC's professional guidelines, competent career counselors of LGBT individuals will


Assist LGBQQ individuals in making career choices that facilitate both identity acceptance and job satisfaction.


Understand how current career theories may not take into account the unique barriers and challenges that LGBQQ individuals face in their career paths and integrate the use of career theories in ways that are affirming of the needs of LGBQQ individuals. Understand that the use of particular career theories may not have been normed for LGBQQ individuals, and that interventions based on such theories will need to be assessed for their efficacy.


Understand that career assessment instruments may not have been normed for LGBQQ individuals, and therefore the interpretation of their results and subsequent interventions will need to be adjusted to take this into account.


Understand how systemic and institutionalized oppression against LGBQQ individuals may adversely affect career performance and/or result in negative evaluation of job performance, and thus may limit career options resulting in underemployment, less access to financial resources, and over-representation/under-representation in certain careers.


Be aware and share information with LGBQQ individuals the degree to which government (i.e., federal, state, and/or local) statutes, union contracts, and business policies perpetuate employment discrimination based on affectional orientation and gender expression and gender identity and advocate with LGBQQ individuals for the promotion of inclusive and equitable policies.


Understand how experiences of discrimination, oppression, and/or violence may create additional inter/intrapersonal barriers for LGBQQ individuals at work (e.g. decreased career/job satisfaction, lack of safety and comfort, interpersonal conflict, etc.).


Understand how experiences of discrimination and oppression related to affectional orientation and/or gender identity/expression at work may be compounded when other experiences of discrimination or oppression are also experienced (e.g. racism, classism, ableism, ageism, religious discrimination, lookism, nationalism, etc.).


Advocate for and with LGBQQ individuals and support the empowerment of LGBQQ individuals to advocate on their own behalf to promote inclusive policies and practices in the workplace as they are applicable on a micro-level (e.g. training on LGBQQ issues in the workplace), meso-level (in local communities) and macro-levels (e.g. in the larger communities with policies, legislations, and institutional reform).


Demonstrate awareness of the challenges and safety concerns involved with coming “out” to co-workers and supervisors and how that may affect other life areas (e.g. housing, self-esteem, family support, upward employment opportunities).


Maintain and ensure confidentiality of LGBQQ identities when advocating for an individual in the workplace even though individuals may be out in their community or in other personal areas.


Link individuals with LGBQQ mentors, role models and resources that increase their awareness of viable career options, when appropriate.


Increase knowledge and accumulate resources for LGBQQ individuals of workplaces that have a reputation of being safe, inclusive and embracing environments.




HRC Report: State of the Workplace

April 2005


While corporate America has demonstrated leadership on providing fair and equal treatment for LGBT employees, this report also highlights the significant work that is yet to be done. Despite overwhelming public support for employment non-discrimination for LGBT employees—87% in a recent Gallup poll— there is still no federal law mandating the basic standard of non-discrimination on the basis of either sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. In the absence of national, legal protections for LGBT employees, LGBT employees are forced to rely on an incomplete patchwork of state and local laws for protection from workplace discrimination. Workers in 34 states could be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression at any time.

By enacting non-discrimination policies that explicitly protect LGBT employees on the job, some companies have attempted to fill the void left by this legislative inaction. An increasing number of companies have realized that providing equal benefits and protections for LGBT employees in the workplace is not only a sound business practice, but a requirement to recruit and retain the best employees possible.

Smart businesses also recognize GLBT consumers’ $610 billion in buying power and their high degree of brand loyalty to companies that treat their GLBT employees equally. In today’s business environment, diversity is considered a competitive advantage. Put simply, employer policies that are LGBT-inclusive are a smart business practice.

We look forward to the day when LGBT employees will have earned all the protections they deserve; the same day that this report will no longer be needed. Until then, each year we will work to highlight the inequities that exist for LGBT Americans in the workplace.

Joe Solmonese / President, Human Rights Campaign
Wes Combs / Co-Chair, HRC Business Council
Emily Jones / Co-Chair, HRC Business Council


Marriage for same-sex couples is now a reality in the United States and it is likely here to stay, despite attempts in some quarters to turn back the forward momentum. Nonetheless, the legal environment is mixed — ranging from full marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts to discriminatory marriage laws and constitutional amendments prohibiting any recognition of same-sex relationships. While these external issues may not affect the ability of large employers to manage their own workplace policies to their best advantage, smaller businesses that do not have self-funded health insurance plans may be impacted.

In spite of the shifting legal landscape, employers retain a great deal of flexibility in the benefits they can offer to domestic partners. Additionally, current benefits research indicates that more employers than ever before offer a range of domestic partner benefits, from health insurance to family leave. Employers recognize the business value of workplace fairness — not only for their work forces and in the labor market, but also in the marketplace. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers represent a market segment of more than $600 billion and growing. Employers are finding that fairness pays, and in many respects, employers, not elected officials, are leading the country tow a rd greater equality.

This report gives an overview of the developing law surrounding same-sex relationships and how it will affect workplace benefits and policies. The report also provides a snapshot of the progress made in 2004 in
banning anti-gay workplace discrimination and equalizing benefits policies at the state and local levels and
in the private sector.

2004 was a landmark year in terms of federal, state and local debate and activity around equality for LGBT people. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to grant marriage licenses for same-sex couples, implementing a Nov. 18, 2003, decision by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruling that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry was unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, although federal legislators failed in their attempt to encode discrimination against same-sex couples in the U.S. Constitution, anti-LGBT advocacy groups were emboldened by their successes in amending the constitutions in 13 states during 2004 to purportedly ban marriage between same-sex couples and, in some cases, ban the rights associated with it to all unmarried couples — same- and opposite-sex.

Since then, governmental entities and individuals in four states have interpreted their state constitutional amendments to deny domestic partner benefits, such as health insurance coverage, to public employees. None of the state constitutional amendments have been interpreted to impact benefits offered in the private sector. Still, the U.S. legal and political landscapes on relationship recognition for LGBT families are varied. For example, employers in Massachusetts, Vermont and California will find that premiums paid for benefits offered to same-sex couples are not subject to state income tax, and are treated the same as those paid for opposite-sex spouses. The same is not true in any other state, or at the federal level. In addition, state constitutional amendments could diminish employers’ competitiveness compared to peers in neighboring states without laws that might restrict benefits available for public employees, impede efforts to attract and retain top-notch employees and complicate transfers of employees to states where they have no protection or legal recognition of their relationships and families.

Despite these obstacles, many employers — particularly large ones — have a great deal of flexibility in how they manage their own workplace benefits.


The most successful employers recognize that their work force is the primary source of their sustained competitive advantage, and many consider domestic partner benefits to be an important component of their management practice. Recent reports by several human resource research firms underscore the point. For example, according to a 2004 report by Mellon Financial Corp.’s Human Resources and Investor Solutions group, approximately 31 percent of survey respondents said that they offer domestic partner health benefits, up from 10 percent in 1998. Of particular note, employers indicate that they are not merely
complying with state or local laws that mandate such benefits: 85 percent reported that they do not have employees in states or localities that would require them to offer domestic partner benefits. Similarly, in a 2005 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, employers cite recruitment, retention and fairness above local laws among the reasons they offer domestic partner benefits. According to this survey,
domestic partner coverage is no more expensive than for other dependents.

For many employees workplace benefits, such as health insurance and family leave, are not mere “extras” that round out a compensation package. Rather, they are essential to health, well-being and their ability to care for loved ones while remaining effective on the job. Certain benefits are regulated primarily by state law and others by federal law. Consequently, benefits administration can be complicated. It is important to note that with few notable exceptions, federal law provides regulatory “floors” with which employers must comply, but which they may exceed in the administration of benefits.


Since 2002, the HRC Corporate Equality Index has been tracking “spousal equivalency ”benefits. The annual survey of the Fortune 500 tracks whether companies offer equal benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners or spouses in some of the following areas:

1. Bereavement leave
2. Family and medical leave
3. COBRA benefits continuation
4. Supplemental life insurance
5. Relocation assistance
6. Adoption assistance
7. Retiree medical coverage
8. Employer provided life insurance
9. Automatic pension benefits for employees’ same-sex partners in the event of an employee’s death (applies to defined benefit plans only)
10. Employee discounts

As of April 13, 2005, 132 employers offered spousal equivalency in all of these benefits, including 83 Fortune 500 companies.


Over the course of the past year, the legal and political environment regarding LGBT workplace equality has changed significantly. The good news is that more cities, counties and government entities offer health insurance coverage for employees’ same-sex partners. Additionally, private sector employers are standing firm in their commitment to equality in the workplace. For instance, Sprint and SBC Communications, both based in Kansas, announced their intention to continue to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees despite passage of a constitutional amendment purporting to ban marriage and other legal relationships for same-sex couples.

However, the threat to employees and their families who depend on their employers for domestic partner benefits is real. For instance, in March 2005, the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division struck down the New York City equal benefits law that barred the city from doing business with companies that provide benefits for employees’ spouses but not for same-sex partners.  Additionally, discriminatory state constitutional amendments in Ohio and Michigan have been interpreted by the University of Toledo and the governor and attorney general of Michigan to indicate that they must rescind domestic partner benefits in the public sector. Officials at Columbia College in Missouri and Utah State University also decided against extending benefits to same-sex couples because they interpreted their states’ constitutional amendments as prohibiting them from doing so.

This is not the end of the story, however. Employers recognize that the benefits they can reap from fair workplace policies extend into the marketplace. According to marketing firm Witeck - Combs Communications and consumer-market researcher Packaged Facts (a division of, the total buying power of the U.S. gay, lesbian and bisexual adult population in 2005 is projected to be $610 billion. With almost 60 percent of LGBT consumers reporting that they “trust brands more if they are made by companies that have progressive policies toward gay and lesbian employees,” employers increasingly recognize a dual opportunity in implementing progressive workplace policies. At the same time, employers are beginning to realize that laws that limit their ability to implement effective, comprehensive and equal workplace policies and benefits are as bad for business as they are for society at large.


As of Dec. 31, 2004, the HRC Foundation had tracked a total of 8,250 private employers, state and local governments, government agencies, colleges and universities that provided health insurance coverage to employees’ domestic partners — an increase of 926 employers, or 13 percent, over 2003.

Also at the end of 2004, a total of 216 companies in the Fortune 500 — or 43 percent — provided domestic partner health benefits. A total of 17 Fortune 500 companies added the benefits in 2004, a 9 percent increase from 2003. Thirteen additional Fortune 500 companies announced that they would begin offering the benefits in 2005, and one said the benefits would begin in 2006, bringing the total number of Fortune companies that have announced or are already offering domestic partner benefits to 230 by March 1, 2005. That marks a tenfold increase in the number of Fortune companies that offer domestic partner health benefits since 1995, when only 21 did so.

As in previous years, the data suggest that the most successful businesses provide domestic partner health benefits. While 46 percent of Fortune 500 companies provide the benefits (as of March 1, 2005), 76 percent of the Fortune 50 do. Among colleges and universities, 74 percent of the 50 top national four-year colleges, according to U.S. News and World Report, provided domestic partner coverage. The overwhelming majority of employers that offer domestic partner health insurance — 95 percent of those tracked by the HRC Foundation — offer it to both same-sex and opposite-sex partners. This is partly because that’s what is re q u i red by equal benefits ordinances enacted. Equal benefits ordinances re q u i re employers doing business with a government entity to provide equal benefits to employees’ domestic partners.


The HRC Foundation tracked a total of 2,867 private employers, state and local governments, government agencies, colleges and universities that included sexual orientation in their organizations’ primary equal employment opportunity or non-discrimination policies as of Dec. 31, 2004. That represents a 4 percent increase from 2003.

At the end of 2004, a total of 410 companies in the Fortune 500 — or 82 percent — included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. Four additional Fortune 500 companies added the policy by March 1, 2005. The closer a company is to the top of the Fortune list, the more likely it is to have an inclusive policy. Forty-nine — or 98 percent — of the Fortune 50 companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. ExxonMobil Corp. is the only company in the Fortune 50 that does not.

A total of 551 colleges and universities had written non-discrimination policies containing sexual orientation at the end of 2004. Forty-nine of 50 top national four-year colleges and universities, according to U.S. News and World Report, include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. The University of Notre Dame is the only school that does not.


No federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. As of Dec. 31, 2004, 14 states and the District of Columbia had civil rights laws that protect all gay, lesbian and bisexual workers within their borders from discrimination. In early 2005, two states passed similar laws — Illinois and Maine — bringing the total to 16 covering sexual orientation, with six of these also including protections for transgender individuals. An additional 11 states prohibit sexual orientation discrimination against state employees, and three of these include protections for transgender state employees. One state — Louisiana — added such a policy in 2004. Over half of the states, therefore, provide some level of protection from job discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Despite widespread support, the 108th U.S. Congress failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have outlawed job discrimination based on sexual orientation in all 50 states. HRC will continue to push for federal legislation outlawing job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in subsequent sessions of Congress, and is actively involved in working to pass such legislation at the state level as well.

At the end of 2004, 173 states, cities, counties and government organizations prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in the private sector. A total of five local jurisdictions added such protections
in 2004.


The struggle for equality waged by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and their allies attracted an unprecedented amount of the public’s attention in 2004. The focus, however, remained set on the legal battles for marriage in Massachusetts and against marriage for same-sex couples elsewhere, as voters in several states wrote discrimination into their state constitutions by prohibiting equal treatment of LGBT families. Largely overshadowed by these electoral and legal battles, the inexorable shift towards equitable treatment for LGBT employees in America’s workplaces continued unabated. The number of companies offering employer-provided domestic partnership benefits again rose steadily, as did the number of state and local jurisdictions offering the same to their public employees. Businesses continued to show government the way forward in prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as the number of new jurisdictions guaranteeing non-discrimination was again outstripped by their corporate counterparts.

In light of the gradual, steady shifts in other areas, the rapid advances seen in transgender-inclusive workplace policies represent the most striking trend in 2004. In a year where only one state law and six municipal laws came into effect that require non-discrimination for transgender employees in the workplace, the number of companies guaranteeing the same for their workers nearly doubled. Businesses have realized that competing in an increasingly challenging marketplace requires the best workforce available, which is in turn only possible when they maximize their recruitment and retention of all workers — LGBT employees included. It is a lesson that government would do well to learn.


(From Human Rights Campaign)

Fostering Workplace Inclusiveness

November 2007

More Programs Move to Halt Bias Against Gays

Chubb & Other Employers Train Managers on How To Foster Inclusiveness

Valorie Gilmore, a specialty-insurance manager at
Chubb Corp., was meeting with a client two months ago when participants began discussing a local women's basketball team. One person blurted, "You mean the lady lesbians?" Ms. Gilmore recalls.

"Let's not go down that road," Ms. Gilmore quickly replied. She says she felt compelled to speak "to set the right example here at Chubb in the way we conduct business."

Ms. Gilmore later attended a training program for Chubb managers on dealing with bias against gays in the workplace and learned that she'd acted appropriately. "You want to redirect the conversation to make it clear you are uncomfortable with it," says Kevin Hannan, a senior performance specialist at the insurer who helped start and design the training.

Chubb is among a growing number of employers training managers on how to prevent workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender employees. Other big companies that offer similar training include
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Merck & Co., Ernst & Young LLP, and Toronto-Dominion Bank. Such offerings are rare because "there is still a level of discomfort in talking about the subject," says John Peoples, a managing partner at Global Lead, a Cincinnati diversity-consulting firm.

Other employers include sexual-orientation issues in general training on inclusiveness, Mr. Peoples says. All told, 41% of 255 big companies surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group for gays in the workplace, offer some kind of training that touches on sexual orientation.

Diversity consultant Brian McNaught says many companies don't see a need for specific training because they have policies prohibiting discrimination against gays; some also offer medical and other benefits to the partners of gay employees. But, Mr. McNaught says, "You need more than policies. You need a culture that on a daily basis feels welcoming, and the only way you change a corporate culture is through education."



Consultant Brian McNaught's tips for managing gay and transgender issues in the workplace:

--Know the company policy on discrimination.

--State clearly what's expected of each employee.

--Be aware this is about the company's values, not personal beliefs.

--Always assume that there's a gay or transgender person present.

--Avoidance isn't effective. Work to create a safe, productive office environment.

There is no federal law prohibiting discrimination against gays, though 20 states have some form of antidiscrimination law, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Earlier this month the U.S. House passed a bill that would prohibit employers from using an individual's sexual orientation as the basis for hiring, firing, promotion or compensation. The bill still must be considered by the Senate.

Mr. McNaught says workplace discrimination against gays is more subtle than in the past; there's little openly antigay graffiti, for example. More typical concerns these days might be an office environment where gay workers don't feel comfortable displaying a photo of their partners or are uneasy talking with colleagues about what they did over the weekend.

Chubb began offering two-hour training sessions in June to all managers. The sessions are led by two Chubb employees -- typically, one employee is gay, the other straight. Topics include language choices, such as what to call a gay person's significant other. ("Partner" is recommended.) Facilitators distribute handouts listing words associated with homosexuality, then offer definitions. They describe a transgender person as a man who identifies himself as a woman, or vice-versa.

The training is largely voluntary for now, although some leaders require managers who report to them to attend. Chubb's facilitators air a video of Mr. McNaught speaking about workplace treatment of gays. He notes that speakers can indicate whether they accept or dismiss gay workers with their tone, and encourages participants to consider the tone they strike when communicating with colleagues.

In another part of the session, Chubb participants are divided into groups to discuss case studies. In one example, a manager and three of his reports are waiting for an elevator. One worker asks if the others have seen a movie. Bob, who is gay, replies that he liked the film but his partner didn't. Later, the manager overhears the two other employees questioning "why Bob needs to advertise his private life at work."

Mr. Hannan praised one manager who suggested approaching the workers and saying, "I didn't see it that way." He also suggested asking the employees, "If Bob were heterosexual and talked about his wife, would you have the same reaction?"

The idea for sexual-orientation training at Chubb grew from a discussion among members of a company affinity group on how to create a more-welcoming office environment for gay employees. They proposed the idea to senior executives and won support from Chubb's chief diversity officer, Kathy Marvel. Organizers decided that, instead of hiring outside consultants to run the training, managers would relate better to hearing from fellow employees.


(From Sarah Needleman, Theory & Practice,,,


Inclusive Work Environment 


"Today's workforce is truly a mosaic of different races, ages, genders, ethnic groups, religions, and lifestyles. It is our job to ensure that disparate pieces of the mosaic fit together in a harmonious, coordinated way, maximally utilizing the talents and abilities of each employee. If skillfully managed, this diversity can bring a competitive advantage to an organization. If not, however, the bottom line can be negatively effected, and the work environment can become unwelcoming."

-ESTY, GRIFFIN & HIRSCH / Workplace Diversity


"The American business community understands that success -- in the present and the future -- lies in enabling a diverse workforce to serve a diverse marketplace. At this point in our nation's history, diversity in the workforce means that a growing proportion of the employee population is other than white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual, married men whose wives are fulltime homemakers. That other than includes not only white women and people of color but anyone whose lifestyle doesn't quite mirror the traditional family reflected in Leave It To Beaver."

-TED CHILDS / IBM Corporation


"In assessing workplace inclusiveness, companies should consider the following questions: Are your facilities physically accessible (ramps, elevators)? Are your printed materials available in alternative formats (braille, large print, tape)? Does promotional material represent and welcome all those served (people of color, gays, people with disabilities)? Is the language used in the office inclusive (Holidays instead of Christmas, partner instead of husband or wife)? Are staff openings and services advertised in publications targeted to diverse populations? Is gender equity discussed and practiced in your office? Are magazines and other materials in resource areas inclusive of various groups? Is there diversity among the hired staff? Has your company established relationships with organizations that can serve as resources in promoting diversity? Do employees confront jokes or slurs against any group or individual (women, blacks, gays, Jews, Hispanics, Polish)? Is diversity training provided for or required of employees in your office? Is the affirmative action statement clearly printed on all applications and other materials? Is every individual who works in, visits, or is served in your office treated with respect and their individual needs taken into account?"

-CHERYL HETHERINGTON / Celebrating Diversity: Working With Groups In The Workplace and STUDENT DIVERSITY INSTITUTE, University of Minnesota



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