The past year or so has brought an onslaught of state laws restricting the rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA+ people and – increasingly – other forms and demonstrations of support of diversity in public spaces. A new Florida law banned Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in public colleges, while another expanded on the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In Missouri, the state legislature successfully voted to ban government spending on DEI initiatives. Tennessee banned drag shows, and a bill that passed the Texas house which was initially aimed at preventing kids from attending drag performances—a nonissue—is now written so broadly that it may criminalize any performance arbitrarily deemed “sexual.”
In this blog, we share how employers can continue to create safe spaces for employees in states that have advanced anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-DEI actions and legislation.
Foster self-expression: Employers can make the work place a safe space to dress in a way that best suits someone’s identity as long as its work appropriate. As The Human Rights Campaign lays out in their Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace toolkit and their piece, Workplace Dress Codes for Trans and Non-Binary Employees, “If an employer has a dress code, it should modify it to avoid gender stereotypes.” Instead of requiring all women to wear skirts or all men to wear pants, employers can apply a baseline business formal requirement that won’t single anyone out. The Human Rights Campaign also emphasizes the importance of proper pronoun usage in the workplace, calling it a “form of mutual respect and basic courtesy.”
Maintain DEI initiatives: Many workplaces already have inclusivity programs. A state government DEI restriction should not discourage most of those programs from moving forward, particularly for private companies. If your company does not already have a robust DEI program, there are many ways to begin a sustainable, long-term program, starting with building out a dedicated team and focusing on one area at a time.
Promote safe spaces for all: It’s important for employers to create welcoming environments for all their employees. Ensuring restroom access, offering paid leave, and establishing employee resource groups (ERGs) for LGBTQIA+ employees are just some of the ways that employers can foster safe and comfortable spaces.
Unfortunately, many states are regressing to a space of limited or no forms of representation. However, just because a state lowers the bar of equality, does not mean private companies must also eliminate or lower their bar of inclusivity. Employers, workplaces, and communities have a responsibility and opportunity to create cultures where everyone is respected, welcome, and safe.
RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.