Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How Open Is Your Office?

I was just discussing Straight Jobs, Gay Lives with a friend, and how often issues of discrimination in the workplace around sexual orientation are phrased as "fit" (e.g., "We want to hire someone who is the best fit" or "We're not sure that you fit here.") when I came across How Open Is Your Office? in Forbes. This article is an attempt to navigate through coming out at work. Now research from Straight Jobs, Gay Lives demonstrated that it was often better for the population sampled to be out at work. But, how, exactly to navigate coming out? The advice from Forbes?

Employees looking to come out at work should ask human resources if their firm has a nondiscrimination policy and if there is an LGBT resource group. There are 20 states and the District of Columbia that protect based on sexual orientation. There are also numerous cities and counties where nondiscrimination laws have been passed despite the lack of a statewide law.
I'm not quite convinced it's as simple (or positive) as it's portrayed. Even if there are protections in 20 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, it's still legal to fire someone based on sexual orientation in 31 states. If I were navigating coming out in a conservative state or a conservative workplace, I might refrain from asking anyone anything in human resources. I might poke around in the employee handbook, I might ask friendly coworkers, but I don't think you'd find me in human resources. But that's me, and I've grown increasingly pragmatic about just about everything.

You might write to your lawmaker to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, if you haven't already. Because, honestly, this is ridiculous.