Celebrate Diversity

Embracing Diversity

Hospitality employers and how to manage LGBT issues.

By Rachel Rosenblatt

Everyone in the workplace should feel welcome and empowered to express themselves so that they can contribute at their highest level. Having a large and diverse workforce, including those in the LGBT community, is smart business, but it can be tricky to operate smoothly.

Approximately 5 percent of the U.S. workforce identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and 21 percent of LGBT employees report suffering some form of workplace discrimination. Hospitality employers should take certain steps to create a safe and inclusive work environment for all of their employees.

1. Know the Law

There is no federal law that explicitly protects LGBT workers. However, 22 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 400 cities and counties nationwide prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and nearly as many states and cities also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression for both public and private employees.

2. Create Non-Discrimination Policies

Sixty-four percent of LGBT individuals have heard anti-LGBT slurs and jokes at work, but only 4 percent have felt comfortable enough to speak up to a supervisor. Employers should be sure that they have policies in place explicitly protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. More than 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies have policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 75 percent also include gender identity and expression.

3. Train Managers and Employees

In addition to updating company policies, hospitality companies should train managers and employees about those policies and expected behavior. It is important to ensure that your company culture fosters an open-door policy that encourages reporting.

4. Allow Bathroom Access

A lot of the recent political and social debate has surrounded transgender people’s rights to bathroom access in the workplace and public places. In the workplace context, federal agencies have issued guidelines stating that employees should be permitted to determine for themselves the most appropriate and safest restroom to use, and employers should refrain from requiring or deciding which restroom should be used by an employee. Wherever possible, single-stall or single-occupant bathrooms or dressing rooms should be made available for all employees’ use. Otherwise, employers should allow employees to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity without requiring any medical or legal documentation.

5. Investigate

If employees encounter a situation that is inappropriate or possibly illegal, they should report their observations to their supervisor, another member of management or human resources. Company policies should be clear that employees would not be retaliated against for reporting their good-faith concerns about inappropriate or illegal activity.

At a minimum, all employees involved in any inappropriate behavior should be spoken to and the investigation should be documented. Once a conclusion is reached, an employer should assess appropriate discipline for employees, such as a reminder about the code of conduct, a verbal warning, a written warning, a suspension or even termination. When in doubt, employers should consult an employment attorney to ensure that they are complying with all laws when taking any adverse action against an employee.

6. Don’t Entertain a Customer’s Complaint.

One difference that LGBT employees face in the hospitality industry is their interaction with the general public. As a result, LGBT employees are more likely to face potential discrimination from customers in their workplace. Employers should not allow a customers’ complaint about an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity to change how that employee is treated. Ultimately, successful companies commit to providing a positive working environment free of harassment and discrimination for all employees and celebrate all aspects of diversity. Diversity and inclusion is good for workers and good for business!

 

Embracing Diversity Rosenblatt Rachel

 

 

Rachel Rosenblatt is an employment defense attorney at Littler Mendelson, the largest U.S.-based law firm exclusively devoted to representing management in every aspect of labor and employment law. She advises and represents employers and managers in the full spectrum of employment matters, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Rosenblatt may be contacted at rrosenblatt@littler.com.

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