Workplace discrimination is a significant issue faced by the LGBTQ community. When applying for jobs and considering potential employers, there are many things for LGBTQ people to consider. In the United States, each state has separate legislation regarding LGBTQ people and workplace discrimination. Some states do not have any protections where others have passed anti-discrimination legislation protecting only sexual orientation and still others include both sexual orientation and gender identity. Differentiating the states that have full protection from those that have no anti-discrimination laws in place is made easier with maps and charts that break down the laws for each state and explain in simple terms. The Movement Advancing Project features an interactive map delineating these differences on its website:http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps.
Testing the Inclusive Climate of a Potential Workplace
Below are several areas to investigate that will allow you to get a sense of how LGBTQ-inclusive a potential employer is:
- Does this employer/company have health insurance coverage that is supportive of LGBTQ people? Does that coverage extend to same-sex spouses, partners, etc? Does that coverage include resources for transgender people who are transitioning?
- Does this company have a non-discrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity? Even if the state you are in does not have protective legislation, individual companies/organizations may have inclusive policies.
- Is there an "employee resource" or "affinity" group that focuses on LGBTQ issues?
When do I come out in the job application process?
Whether in your resume or in the job interview itself, the decision of when and/or whether to come out in the job search process is one that often raises a lot of anxiety and questions. Should I say anything about my sexual orientation/gender identity? If so, when? How could I come out without taking away from the focus of the interview?
Coming Out on a Resume
If you choose to use your resume as a platform for disclosing your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, there are several ways that you can do so. One of the easiest is to highlight how you have served the LGBTQ community, either in the workplace, through volunteer work, or in academia.
- The key to coming out in your resume is using whatever experiences you have with the LGBTQ community to highlight your skills and abilities.
- Focus on including transferable skills so that no matter where your experience comes from, your new potential employer can see how your skills will fit into their workplace.
- An example would be including service to a campus LGBTQ group as a way of learning time management, multi-tasking, and event planning.
- From the perspective of a potential employer, serving the LGBTQ community does not necessary mean that you yourself are a member of that community.
Coming Out in the Interview
When it comes to the interview itself, you are faced with a whole new set of options and many of them change depending on if you have already alluded to your connection to the LGBTQ community. Some examples of how to bring up the topic during an interview include:
- Tie your past experiences in with your unique skill set and present that to the interviewer (i.e. "While I was involved with my school’s LGBTQ group I was able to cultivate my ability to multi-task while learning valuable time management skills").
- When given the chance to ask questions of your own, ask your interviewer if the company/organization has a group that focuses on creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ employees and if you could be a part of it if such a group exists.
- If you are applying for a position that includes benefits, ask if the benefits package is inclusive of LGBTQ people/families.
Resources for Transgender Individuals
In the interactive map referenced above, one of the features allows for people to see which states include anti-discrimination laws that protect not only sexual orientation, but also gender identity. The two are often confused, but the difference between them is an important one because transgender individuals are often faced with separate list of issues and questions that are unique from those faced by people discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
While there are more complex answers to many of these questions, here is a quick overview of some of the common questions for people who are interested in transitioning and transgender issues in the workplace.
- If I have changed my name, which name should I use on my resume? Can I include job experiences that I obtained under my birth name?
Often this decision comes down to where in the transition and legal name change process someone is. The name you decide to use in the process is up to you, but be aware that some jobs require background or reference checks and in those situations the name you give needs to match your legal records.
- Does the organization/employer’s health benefits package include gender-affirming coverage?
If you are interested in medical transition, this is an important question to ask or research when looking at a potential employer. Many insurance packages do not cover gender-affirming procedures, i.e. hormones and/or surgeries. Some packages do, but will only cover certain aspects of the transitioning process, making it that much more important to ask what would be covered if you worked for that company.
These are only two of the common questions that arise for transgender individuals when looking at potential employers. Below are links to two organizations that have compiled court cases, legal answers, and general advice designed to help transgender individuals navigate the application process and understand their legal rights in the workplace: