For most of U.S. history, LGBTQ+ people could easily be terminated from their jobs or miss out on job opportunities due to something as simple as their sexual orientation or gender identity. The situation has improved over time, but there is still a long way to go before LGBTQ+ individuals will be able to be truly free from workplace discrimination.
In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in a case called Bostock v. Clayton County. The Court ruled that Title VII bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
After Bostock, it is unlawful for employers to take an employee’s or job candidate’s sexual orientation or transgender status into account when making employment-related decisions.
Title VII, and therefore Bostock, applies to companies with 15 or more employees, to state and local government employers with 15 or more employees, and to the federal government. Employers with fewer than 15 employees are not covered by Title VII. Independent contractors are not covered either.
We live in a world where many state legislatures are trying to advance bills targeting LGBTQ+ and transgender people. According to an NBC News analysis in 2022, almost 700 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed in state legislatures from 2018 through the first quarter of 2022.
According to a recent article by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), only 22 states currently have laws that explicitly ban sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Nine more states have extended their existing sex discrimination laws to protect people of different genders and orientations.
Effective Practices to Include and Protect LGBTQ+ Employees and Coworkers
Supporting LGBTQ+ workers starts with building a culture of inclusion, where all employees and candidates can be themselves. The Society for Human Resource Management offers many helpful ideas for creating such a culture, including:
Inclusive leadership: Leaders must show inclusive behavior and not tolerate disrespect or discrimination at any level of the company.
Set expectations: Employers cannot and should not try to change people’s beliefs, but employers can insist on respectful workplace behavior.
Pronouns: Removing gendered pronouns from employee handbooks helps support non-binary workers. Bosses and coworkers should also take care to use each employee’s preferred pronouns during conversations and in emails.
Training: Provide training sessions on LGBTQ terminology, gender-neutral language and recognizing implicit biases.
Recruiting: Use niche job sites that cater to LGBTQ+ candidates, make sure job postings use gender-neutral language, and advertise health and family leave benefits offered to same-sex partners.
Legal Advice on LGBTQ+ Employment Issues
These are just a few ideas on how to make workplaces more inclusive for LGBTQ+ applicants and employees. As an employment and civil rights lawyer, I’m available to schedule a legal consultation for those who need help making an informed decision.
Joshua Newville is a Minnesota employment lawyer, civil rights attorney, and mediator. Josh litigates and advises on such matters as wrongful termination, whistleblowers, discrimination, police misconduct, and more. He offers paid legal consultations and free online case reviews regarding employment law and civil rights.