Running head: WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION 1
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in the Workplace
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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in the Workplace
Discrimination affects organizations in a multitude of ways. In order to design methods to
solve this issue, our group has chosen to focus our initial research on the causes of the problem, what is
currently being done to minimize discrimination and how these solutions are effective and ineffective.
Although there are laws and policies in place that protect workers against discrimination, the issue is still
extremely prevalent in organizations of all industries. Realizing that discrimination is an issue that needs
to be solved on a societal level, we have developed design goals that will go beyond forcing organizations
to simply adhere to federal laws regulating discrimination. In order for the issue to be fully solved, we
need to change individual’s perceptions that cause stereotyping and discrimination. Given the opportunity
to eliminate discrimination at an organizational level, we will then be able to slowly chip away at the
societal origin of the issue.
1. How does discrimination affect organizations productivity?
2. Is discrimination a conscious act? Do people truly believe that sexual orientation diminishes an
individual’s ability to do work?
3. In some states, there is anti-discrimination policies that protect against sexual orientation and gender
identify discrimination, what was the process to get these laws passed? What were the obstacles?
How effective are these laws?
4. How aware is the general public of workplace discrimination against the LBGT population?
5. What is preventing EDNA (a proposed anti-discrimination bill that includes sexual orientation) from
6. What organizations are known to be openly accepting of the LGBT population? How does this help
or hinder their success?
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Focus & Definition
Throughout our initial research we discovered that the current anti-discrimination laws are by no
means all encompassing. The current laws prohibit discrimination based on gender, race, religion, age
(+40 year olds are protected), veteran status, disability status, cultural origin as well as a few other
protected classes. Among the groups left unprotected by current federal discrimination law are
homosexuals, transgendered individuals, and even those with bad credit. Many employers will run job
candidates through a credit-check before considering them. Employers are legally permitted to
discriminate against candidates based on the results of a credit-check, or they could even refuse to hire a
candidate because he is gay.
We understand that a federal law does not instantly eliminate discrimination, but these laws give
victims the right to use the legal system as a tool to fight discrimination in the workplace. This is why as a
group we have decided to focus on a class of workers that have no federal protection from workplace
discrimination: those discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This issue is
critical because while our society is evolving into one that is more accepting of homosexuality, the laws
have yet to catch up. The federal government itself is one of the nation’s worst perpetrators of sexual
orientation discrimination. The armed forces’ “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy undermines the freedom and
dignity of homosexuals. Whether “Don’t ask don’t tell,” is a symptom of, or a contributing factor to a
larger issue of LBGT discrimination is not yet clear at this point in our research. One thing that is clear
though is that discrimination against the LBGT community still exists on a much larger level than just
employment and hiring practices, and any proposed action by our group will account for this.
In order to create effective design goals we plan on using many different sources. Our
primary research will be done through interviews with professionals, as well as individuals who have
been personally affected by workplace discrimination. We have already conducted an in class interview
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with Marlene Fine, a professor at Simmons College, and expert in gender issues and discrimination. We
plan on using our finding through her works, as well as her insight during the interview when developing
our designs. In addition to Marlene, we plan on interviewing other experts in the field. We have
contacted Traevena Byrd, who deals with affirmative action at Ithaca College, and plan to interview her in
the near future. In addition to Traevena, we have contacted various professors and experts at both Ithaca
College and Cornell University, who we are confident, will give us more insight into the issue, and enable
us to design initiatives that will hopefully change the faulty structure and practices of current
organizations. As far as individuals who have personally been affected
In addition to these interviews, we have been researching and finding many scholarly articles on
the issue of discrimination in general, as well as targeted articles that are specific to the aspects of
discrimination we are exploring. Some of these articles will be discussed in our design goals, as they have
helped us construct possible designs that will bring awareness to this issue, and hopefully act as solutions.
In simplest form our goal is to eliminate discrimination against the LBGT population in the
workplace. One of the most obvious ways to accomplish this is to change the current EEOC laws to
include sexual orientation and gender identity. However, we understand that just because there is a speed
limit doesn’t mean most drivers don’t speed. In other words, we need to design a method to eliminate
stigmas surrounding the LGBT population in the workplace so people are not only following laws, but
actually believing that someone of a different sexual orientation is just as capable of performing in the
workplace as they are.
We realize we cannot change people’s view of whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong,
that is not our goal. Our goal is to provide organizations with the tools to help their employees see past a
person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The enactment of a law that prevents an LGBT employee
from discrimination in the workplace will assure that there are consequences if this person is harassed,
assaulted or paid or treated differently than other employees. What these regulations don’t ensure is that
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members of the organization will see a LBGT employee in the same light as they do a straight employee.
Even if there are no signs of harassment or outright discrimination we want to ensure that LBGT
employees are trusted and respected by all members of the organization. Once this is accomplished, the
positive implications it will have on the organization will be endless.
In order to create ways to solve workplace discrimination, we felt it necessary to identify
strategies that can be used to increase awareness of the issue. When creating methods to eliminate
discrimination in the workplace, we will utilize these strategies to help us determine what will and will
not work to achieve our end goal.
Discrimination awareness training
Training employees on sensitive issues that may affect productivity and could create a hostile
work environment is a vital strategy that can be implemented in all workplaces.
Workshops/Provide education in awareness, educate employees on cultural differences and how to
respond to such differences in the workplace
Education is considered vital to provide the skills needed to work in teams and improve
employees’ understanding of the cultural mix within the organization. Providing expertise and
development activities to employees will help create awareness as well.
Development of organizational policies that mandate fairness for all employees
This would include changes in recruitment policies, implementation of flexible work schedules,
ensuring pay equity for all workers, and providing care for children and the elderly.
The Role of Human Resources
HR professionals are in harmony with the entire organization, not just a service or function. He or
she deals with employees at all levels, from the boardroom to the shop to the marketing department of
accounting. They also deal with issues such as recruitment, retention, compensation, employee help
programs, health and safety, and training and development.
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HR professionals should use training, coaching, mentoring, modeling, monitoring, and
measurement in their assist to raise awareness about discrimination to employees.
Cultivate awareness of the situation in the job market among youth. The younger generation is the
most important audience to educate because they have more power over the future in regards to
decreasing discrimination and the issues behind it. Raising awareness among youth can be done through
on campus lectures, workshops, and youth anti-discrimination programs.
Through researching scholarly articles, we have discovered staggering statistics about
discrimination of sexual orientation in the workplace, and the perceptions that people have of this group.
Some of the most notable findings so far have been:
In a research study conducted in 2007, 55% or the individuals interviewed believed there was no
reason for people to know who was homosexual.
An extremely shocking finding conducted by the same group found that 90% of the workers and
management they interviewed would not hire someone if they thought that person was homosexual. The
study also looks at the ways in which organizations discriminate against homosexuals by not hiring them,
which is done in both concealed and explicit ways. (Embrick, et. al, p.763)
Other shocking finding we have found are that over 50 studies have been conducted about
discrimination of homosexual individuals, and these findings have proven this group faces significant
barriers to equality (Tonn, p. 2), and that transgender discrimination is universal (Tonn, p. 2).
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Butterfly, Doris L. (2010). Comparative study of strategies and awareness training on diversity and
political sensitivity of human resource strategies based.
Embrick, D., Walther, C., Wickens, C. (2007). Working class masculinity: keeping the gay men
and lesbians out of the workpalce. http://www.eeoc.gov/
Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2008). OECD Employment Outlook 2008.
Sumser, John. (2010). Unprotected Classes: Prejudice and Double-Standards Alive and Well in
Tonn, Rebecca. (2009). More employers setting policies to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender workers. The Colorado Springs Business Journal, Colorado Springs.
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