Evening the Playing Field for LGBT Employees

As co-director at GetEQUAL, an organization that seeks to help the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community obtain legal and social equality, Heather Cronk hopes to improve workplace standards for the LGBTQ community. The organization is voicing its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, which would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Prior to her work with GetEQUAL, Cronk was the CEO at the New Organizing Institute, an organization that trains organizers to build and manage effective movements. Cronk tells Diversity Executive how she believes the act would create a more inclusive and diverse workplace.

Why is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 important for the workplace?

For 39 years, LGBT Americans have tried to get legislation passed that would make discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity illegal in the United States. I hear stories every day from folks who are passed over for interviews, for jobs or for promotions because they’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In a country that values work ethic above all else, talented Americans shouldn’t face legal discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love.

How can companies help promote equality in the workplace now?

There are many examples of great workplace policies, and it’s great to see that most Fortune 100 companies are realizing that non-discrimination policies actually help their bottom line. The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index is a great resource for looking at which companies have made this move and the positive impact they believe it has made.

What kind of workplace protections would the act provide for employees?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) provides very basic and rational protections for employees of companies with more than 15 staff based on sexual orientation or gender identity. With many companies already understanding that these policies help recruit and retain talented employees, it’s really just an effort to ensure that intransigent companies are brought up to speed with modern civil rights protections.

How can companies support the passing of the act?
The bill currently has 47 sponsors and co-sponsors, which is a great start. If you’re interested in supporting the bill, check out GetEQUAL’s public whip count to see if your senators (or the senators where your company is based) are supportive.

How can employers show their support of equality in the workforce beyond, or in addition to, passing the act?

Passing ENDA is a great first step — one that has eluded us for decades. We refer to ENDA as the “Susan Lucci of legislation” since it’s been introduced so many times, but has always fallen short of passing. In addition to helping build support for the bill, we’d love the help of business owners and private sector employees to spread the word and to publicly show your support for ENDA. That might be joining local organizing efforts, or speaking out at your local chamber of commerce meeting, or building support within your local business association. Every bit of support is helpful!

Jessica DuBois-Maahs is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.