Understanding Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals in the Workplace: implication for employers

Was what the U.S Supreme Court thinking when it’s ruled in 2011, that anti-gay protests at funerals of America soldiers are protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech? Or why would the Episcopal Church consecrate  its first openly lesbian bishop against traditional laid down belief? The 1993 March on Washington for Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexual which brought together not only an unprecedented number of participants but also led to the foundation of non-discrimination in employment and equity. In a nutshell, they were finally acknowledging that to be fair and just, we must put aside bias, conservative beliefs and promote an even playing ground for all.

Take this plain truth or forever remain ignorant; the issues around being a gay or lesbian or even bisexual have to come stay in the workforce. Yes, many have argued that the Title VII doesn’t provide any sort of protection based on affinity orientation. In fact, this is still a topic for debate – as to if affinity orientation be admitted as a prohibition just as we have prohibition against sexual harassment; race discrimination and even gender discrimination as well. The issues of gays and lesbians in the workplace surfaced in surprising and unfamiliar ways, making it more compelling for employers to be very much aware of what to put into considerations when developing policy in this regard. The movement of gays and lesbians is one that had been previously shadowed by fears and low self-esteem. Social values have been upheld traditionally and as such, those who were and are gays, lesbians or bisexuals were seen as “outcasts”; the society had no place for them and this was even felt in the workplace. So the question now is what has happened to these societal values and why no one is fighting back against gays as before. The truth is that trends in recent years have taken a totally different direction. Today, the impact of AIDS in the society and workplace, 1993 March on Washington, President Clinton’s support for gays which even saw over 150 gays and lesbians in his administration, Colorado’s attempted constitutional ban on gays and lesbians which the Supreme Court struck down, psychological orientation and the First Amendment have all given gays, lesbians and bisexuals the much-anticipated drive to pursue this core. What is even more worth questioning is the alarming rate and recognition that the “gay and lesbian rights movement” has recorded over the “civil rights movement”, surprising to say. So it is common for people to refuse to work with employees that are gays or lesbians by citing religious beliefs and practices. This is very wrong, at least in the light of recent cases. In fact, if you are against gays and its cohorts, then do not invite any of them to lunch, develop intimate relationship, or pay a visit to them because doing so may mean you sending a wrong signal. However if you think and believe that you should not work with them as a result of their affinity orientation, then it is time to kiss your job goodbye and begin the search to look for another job elsewhere because they have come to stay in the workplace. More so, refusing to work with gays simply puts you at an odd and gives your employer the right to terminate your contract.

Imagine the Weaver v. School District case in a high school teacher was dismissed for being a lesbian; which the court ruled that it was an unconstitutional denial of equal protection of the law. Many more cases are arising yearly especially as 21 States have passed States Laws banning Workplace Discrimination on the basis of Affinity Orientation. In addition, ten more states are still debating to pass laws that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on affinity orientation or gender identity.  So they have come to stay and this okay after all, the basis of judgement should be on the job and not on the person’s affinity.

Implication for employers: 

While many employers and HR managers have continued to dwell under the assumption that actions relating to “affinity orientation” are ignored by the courts, it is imperative to note that adverse employment decision based on affinity orientation can be pursued under state use of First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S Constitution as a basis for litigation while noting the constitutional right to privacy as well, which may be used. The rise of states laws can’t be ignored in this regard. Recent court cases on gays favors the plaintiff hereby leaving many employers the burden and action to reconsider developing a proactive workplace policy. Even the law favors the employer, apparently it does, employers may wish to consider the impacts of restrictive employment practices and policies.

Since affinity orientation is not a protected a category under Title VII, employers are offered the flexibility of designing workplace policies as deemed fit but failing to accept and consider the issues around gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexuals even put the employer as a disadvantage. Regardless of the various approaches to used, affinity orientation should not be used as a reason for employment action but the employee’s abilities and skills should be the basis for employment decisions; by so doing, employers are protected against liabilities.

Never base you hiring or employment decision on affinity orientation!!!


About ogungbesan20

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