Transgender and Gay Employees at the Workplaces

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Introduction

This research shows that American companies have not prepared their management teams to handle transgender employees. It draws from existing studies with a specific focus on gays and transgender employees in the workplace.

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The general population has often misunderstood and disregarded transgender and gay people in the community (Burgess, 1999). These groups challenge the normal and traditional gender roles. Consequently, they are prone to discrimination and oppression at various places, including workplaces.

Discrimination at workplaces

American firms do not offer adequate protections to transgender and gay employees as Burgess indicates (Burgess, 1999). As a result, many transgender and gay workers “face different forms of harassment, workplace discrimination, and sexual assaults” (Burgess, 1999). According to a recent study by Crosby Burns and Jeff Krehely (2011), transgender and gay persons continue to experience extensive forms of discrimination at workplaces (Burns and Krehely, 2011). They discovered that the percentage of gay people that experienced “discrimination and harassment at their workplaces ranged from 15 percent to 43 percent” (Burns and Krehely, 2011). In addition, many transgender employees (90 percent) had experienced some forms of harassment and mistreatment at their workplaces. These issues at workplaces have created significant and immediate challenges for gay and transgender people.

The study also showed that transgender people were the most affected than gay or lesbian persons. It claimed that discrimination and harassment against non-conforming people were universal challenges in workplaces.

Discrimination also extends to wage differences at workplaces. Badgett and fellow colleagues from the Williams Institute noted that there were differences between wages of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) and heterosexual employees (Badgett, Lau, Sears, and Ho, 2007). They noted that gay and transgender employees had low earnings relative to their heterosexual counterparts. For instance, they found out that “wage analyses consistently showed that gay men earn 10 percent to 32 percent less than heterosexual men” (Badgett et al., 2007). However, the study did not produce consistent results in the case of lesbians. Moreover, there were high rates of poor and unemployed gay and transgender persons compared to normal persons.

A large number of transgender and gay workers believe that they have experienced some forms of harassment and discrimination. At the same time, heterosexual employees are responsible for harassment and discrimination against LGBT employees. However, one must recognize that such studies on LGBT harassment and discrimination normally focus on a given industry, geography, certain population, and occupation. This suggests that results may differ based on different areas of focus.

Outcomes

American firms experience negative outcomes because of discrimination and harassment against transgender and gay people. For instance, Cavico, Muffler, and Mujtaba show that there are ethical and legal costs associated with workplace discrimination and assaults (Cavico, Muffler, and Mujtaba, 2012).

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Transgender and gay people also suffer economic consequences because of harassment and discrimination at their workplaces. Pervasive harassment and discrimination in most American firms have affected the socioeconomic statuses of most LGBT people. The main impact on transgender and gay people has been employment instability. As a result, this segment of employees may experience the highest rate of staff attrition, unemployment, poverty levels, and wide wage gaps relative to their straight colleagues. Badgett and colleagues established that “gay men earned ten percent to 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual males” (Badgett et al., 2007). These studies have also shown that “older LGBTs experienced high rates of poverty than their straight counterparts” (Burns and Krehely, 2011). Moreover, many transgender and gay people were most likely to be jobless and in a state of poverty.

Joblessness and poverty have resulted in homelessness among transgender and gay people. These figures indicate that many American firms have failed to protect their vulnerable workers against discrimination and harassment. Overall, a number of studies have shown that discrimination and harassment at workplaces affect employees in several ways. For instance, employees may experience “diminished productivity, job satisfaction, and the mental and physical health” (Burns and Krehely, 2011) due to constant harassment and discrimination.

American firms on discrimination

In the recent past, several private firms and employers have turned their attention to “policies that forbid harassment and discrimination at workplaces because of sexual orientation” (Cavico et al., 2012). Such forms of protection are expanding in many firms. Protection policies are a part of the employees’ contracts with companies. Reeves and Decker noted that in the year 2000, “51 percent of the Fortune 500 companies had such policies, and by 2008 that number had jumped to 81 percent, including 97 percent of the Fortune 100” (Reeves and Decker, 2011). Moreover, some firms in the Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 have provided identity protection to their LGBT employees. A large number of US firms employ millions of transgender and gay people. These firms have “aided the struggle for job equality for LGBT workers by providing comprehensive employment protections to them” (Cavico et al., 2012). While this is a clear move in the right direction, many firms in the US do not offer adequate protections for transgender and gay employees. Moreover, many managers do not know how to handle issues that concern sexual assaults on LGBT due to ethical and legal aspects of such cases.

Under such hostile workplaces and social environments, transgender and gay people look for “various means of surviving and adapting to their situations” (Burgess, 1999). However, Burgess notes that they experience “confusion, low self-esteem, and depression” (Burgess, 1999). The need to survive and gain acceptance from fellow colleagues may push transgender and gay employees to self-mutilation. In some cases, they may develop suicidal tendencies. These issues result from external factors like assault and discrimination at workplaces, hostile environments, rejection, failure to get protection from managers, and pressure from colleagues to fit within the acceptable gender.

Protecting transgender and gay employees at the workplaces

Some firms have adopted policies in order to protect their transgender and gay employees against harassment and discrimination at work. However, given the rising number of assaults against LGBT, these approaches are not adequate to protect LGBT employees (Badgett et al., 2007).

Cavico and colleagues have noted that there is a need to expand employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to protect transgender and gay employees (Cavico et al., 2012).

The challenge has been within organizations. Many firms have not trained their managers on how to handle harassment and discrimination against transgender and gay people as experiences from affected employees have shown (Burns and Krehely, 2011). While managers may recognize that assaults and discrimination are against state laws or internal policies, they do not have adequate knowledge of handling unique cases that involve LGBT employees. Thus, it is critical for managers to identify potential sources and incidences of harassment and discrimination at workplaces and handle such issues immediately to avoid negative impacts on the business. Assaults and discrimination can lead to large lawsuits against the company and management team. Thus, managers must not ignore and assume that LGBT employees do not exist at their firms and do not experience such issues.

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It is advisable for managers to treat complaints from LGBT seriously. The major role of the manager is to conduct an investigation and establish the possibility of the issue. Managers, who ignore complaints, risk losing their jobs and putting companies in positions to compensate for damages against such employees.

Some scholars have suggested the need to “pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to ensure that all Americans are judged at the workplace based on their skills, qualifications, and the quality of their work” (Burns and Krehely, 2011). Today, most American firms judge LGBTs based on their sexual orientation rather than their qualifications and quality of work. However, these factors do not have any relationship with job performance and employees’ output.

Despite the negative outcomes, the legal and social protections for gay and transgender employees have improved over the past decades at workplaces. Today, many states and firms have enacted policies to protect employees against harassment and assaults based on their sexual orientation and failure to conform to specific gender identities.

In recent times, the public has also supported the need to introduce effective policies to protect all employees at workplaces. Moreover, many gay and transgender workers have become bold and demand protection from their employers openly. As a result, workplace environments have improved significantly.

Nevertheless, LGBTs still face harassment and assaults. They still lack protections given to other special groups at workplaces. Presently, employers can still fire an employee based on sexual orientation under federal law (Burns and Krehely, 2011; Cavico et al., 2012). Federal law lacks provisions to stop discrimination of employees based on their “sexual orientation, sexual preference, or gender identity” (Cavico et al., 2012). Some states and local authorities may have “provisions under the law to protect such employees” (Burns and Krehely, 2011). Hence, the employee can file a lawsuit for discrimination. Overall, Congress has failed to enact laws that can protect this segment of employees against discrimination and harassment.

Congress has made slow progress with ENDA. This is a promising Act that could end up providing the ultimate protection to transgender and gay employees at their workplaces. LGBTs would have the same protections that other vulnerable groups enjoy under the law. However, ENDA has some limitations. For instance, it exempts small firms with not more than 15 workers, and it does not allow for any special treatment for LGBT employees. Moreover, it does not compel employers to provide many benefits to partners of transgender and gay employees.

Conclusion

All workers require fair treatment and protection at workplaces irrespective of their sexual orientations, desires, preferences, and gender non-conformity. Thus, employers have the ultimate role of protecting their workforce against discrimination and assaults. Transgender and gay employees represent a large number of employees in the US. However, many of them work in constant fear of assault, harassment, and dismissal from work due to their sexual orientation. The essay has shown that transgender and gay employees still face significant challenges at the workplace. Moreover, managers have failed to protect them against assaults and discrimination.

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Overall, American firms should eliminate all manner of discrimination at workplaces. In addition, Congress should enact ENDA in order to provide a legal ground for protecting minority employees at their places of work.

References

Badgett, L., Lau, H., Sears, B. and Ho, D. (2007). Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination. Web.

Burgess, C. (1999). Internal and external stress factors associated with the identity development of transgendered youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 10(3/4), 35-47.

Burns, C., and Krehely, J. (2011). Gay and Transgender People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment. Web.

Cavico, F., Muffler, S., and Mujtaba, B. (2012). Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in the American Workplace: Legal and Ethical Considerations. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(1), 1-20.

Reeves, E., and Decker, L. (2011). Before ENDA: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection in the Workplace under Federal Law. Law and Sexuality: A Review of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Legal Issues, 20, 61-78.

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