United States: Exploring LGBT Discrimination In The Workplace

Impact of Same‐Sex Marriage on Company Benefit Plans and Employment Policies

  • After the U.S. Supreme Court's same‐sex marriage rulings in 2013 and 2015, these are some of the effects on employee benefits:
    • Employees who participate in retirement plans receive automatic survivor death benefits for their same‐sex spouses benefit.
    • Employers that choose to extend health benefit coverage to their employees' spouses generally must also provide it to same‐sex spouses.
    • Movement toward marriage: Potential rescission of domestic partner benefits since same‐sex marriage is now legal in the United States.
      • Verizon, Delta Air Lines, IBM, Corning were among large employers that had rescinded domestic partner benefits to employees and began providing spousal coverage instead.

II. Employment Discrimination Policies & Actions to Protect Diverse Groups

  • Companies have taken action to protect diverse groups, including LGBT employees, by:
    • Adding sexual orientation and/or gender identity to nondiscrimination policies, even when it is not technically legally protected.
  • EEOC determined in a 2015 ruling that discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination based on sex.
  • EEOC recently filed two sex discrimination cases that are based on sexual orientation:
    • In its suit against Scott Medical Health Center, EEOC charged that a gay male employee was verbally harassed because of his sexual orientation. After a supervisor refused to take any action to stop the harassment, the employee quit his job.
    • In its suit against IFCO Systems, EEOC charged that a lesbian employee was harassed because of her sexual orientation. A supervisor told the employee, "I want to turn you back into a woman" and "You would look good in a dress," and made suggestive gestures. The employee was fired formaking a complaint.
    • Allegation in both is sex discrimination.

III. Issues Facing Transgender Employees

  • Reaction of other employees to a transgender co-worker
    • More and more employers offer diversity training covering gender identity and gender expression.
    • Many employers have Workplace Gender Transition Guidelines that recommend having an engagement plan and a support team to ease the employee's transition.
  • Dress code while transitioning in the workplace
  • Access to a restroom corresponding to the employee's gender Identity
  • Recent lawsuits alleging discrimination and harassment – such as being passed over for a job promotion or fired because of one's gender identity, and verbal or physical abuse in the workplace

IV. New Focus on Benefits With Special Implications for Diverse Employees

  • Gender‐neutral parental leave
  • Adoption assistance and leave
  • Surrogacy assistance
  • Transition‐related health care (i.e. surgery and drug therapy for gender reassignment)
    • Nike, IBM, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Kroger (which is the largest supermarket chain in the U.S.) are part of a growing list of companies offering trans‐inclusive coverage as part of their diversity initiatives

V. Corporate Outreach and Involvement

  • Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index – measures LGBT workplace inclusion
  • Burger King PrideWhopper
  • Cruise lines, such as Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, have offered all‐gay cruises.
  • Hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton have websites for LGBT vacation packages.
  • Airlines like airberlin and Lufthansa have websites for LGBT travelers. JetBlue has sponsored the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival.
  • U.S. companies have taken a stand against initiatives that are perceived as discriminatory towards LGBT individuals:
    • Disney, and its subsidiary movie studio Marvel, recently warned Georgia that they will choose to film elsewhere if it enacts a religious liberty law that would allow faith‐based organizations to deny services or employment to anyone who violates their sincerelyheld religious beliefs.
    • PayPal recently abandoned plans to create 400 jobs in North Carolina due to a proposed law under which people would only be permitted to use public restrooms that correspond to their biological sex.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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