Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Equality In The Workplace: Then and Now

In 1972, when PFLAG was first founded,  there was very little equality or protections for LGBT individuals in their workplace. They often experienced regular discrimination because of their sexual orientation, affecting their job performance and mental health. When PFLAG started it was still legal to prohibit LGBT individuals from working in the federal government, the military, and many other sectors of employment. However, today, thanks to the tireless work of PFLAG and other organizations, there are policies protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the federal civilian workforce, LGBT people can serve openly and proudly in the military, and 87% of Fortune 500 companies have workplace protections for sexual orientation, with 41% including gender identity protection.

When Jeanne Manford created PFLAG to show support for her son and advocate for his and others’ equality, there wasn’t any legislation that protected her son or LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination. However, through the efforts of many, many PFLAGers and our partner organizations, legalized workplace discrimination has slowly, but surely decreased. Over the past forty years, federal employment policy was extended to include workplace protections for sexual orientation and gender nonconformity, and many American companies now promote LGBT equality through offering domestic partner benefits, and adopting non-discrimination policies. These huge strides in demanding workplace protection for our LGBT loved ones and making sure employment inequalities are brought to the nation’s attention wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible work that PFLAG moms, dads, friends, families and allies have been doing for the past 40 years. 

However, there is still much more work to be done to reach full workplace equality for every member of the PFLAG family. It is estimated that 49% of the LGBT population live in states that allow employment discrimination, and there has yet to be comprehensive federal legislation prohibiting  workplace discrimination across the country. With its unique family and allied voice, PFLAG has been at the forefront of advocating for just such legislation, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Even though ENDA has been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1994, yet has not been successfully passed into law. Thus, it is still legal in 28 states for an employee to be fired due to their sexual orientation, and legal in 33 states to be fired based on their gender identity or expression. As several supportive senators emphasized in June, the absence of non-discrimination policies is not only harmful to our LGBT loved ones, but also hinders the nation’s productivity. Preventing LGBT Americans from living up to their full employment potential prevents the nation from becoming as productive, efficient and competitive as it could be. 

Apart from federal legislation, PFLAG has also been working to ensure that the workplace is a supportive and inclusive environment for all employees. Our Straight for Equality campaign provides trainings to companies and businesses to help them break down the barriers and foster a welcoming community for their employees. It offers resources to facilitate an open and honest dialogue about the importance of being an ally, what it means to be an ally, and simple steps anyone can take to advocate and support equality in their community. These trainings have already made huge strides in about 60 corporations, reaching around 6,000 people, and have facilitated the implementation of equality guidelines and curriculums for companies to follow.

Over the last forty years, PFLAG members have led the way in securing acceptance and equality in the workplace for our LGBT loved ones. We can’t wait to see what the next 40 years will bring, and look forward to full equality for every single member of the PFLAG family. 

Take Action: Want to help ensure that Congress passes comprehensive legislation to prohibit workplace discrimination throughout the country? Please click here, enter your zip code to find your elected representative’s contact info, and tell them why you think it’s important for ENDA to be passed.

Then click here to learn more about PFLAG’s Straight for Equality project and take the Straight for Equality Pledge here.

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