Pride Month: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Pride Month: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Every June, Pride Month not only celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and/or questioning, plus other sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ+) and their contributions to our country, but also allows us to reflect on how far we’ve come in pursuing equality and justice, and building toward a more inclusive future, as described in Pride Month proclamations from both President Joe Biden and California Governor Gavin Newsom. One way employers can acknowledge and celebrate Pride Month is to help create a welcoming workplace for all employees — fostering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging — where all employees can show up as their authentic selves.

Ultimately, such an environment should be the norm, as employers may not, by law, discriminate against applicants or employees based on a protected class, which includes but is not limited to, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or because an individual is transgender, is transitioning or has transitioned.

Despite these laws, however, workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity remains a serious problem in 2024. In the last fiscal year alone, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recovered approximately $13.5 million to resolve those charges — an all-time record since tracking began more than a decade ago.

In fact, in April 2024, the EEOC restated its commitment to enforcing Title VII protections for LGBTQ+ workers — which the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in 2020 — by updating its workplace harassment guidance to address LGBTQ+ protections. The guidance particularly emphasizes that harassing transgender workers may violate Title VII and gave several key examples of such harassment, including denial of appropriate bathroom access, intentional misgendering and harassment based on non-conformity to gender stereotypes.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) stated its own commitment to ensuring equality in the workplace and maintaining policies that support people being their true selves at work. These policies and resources include:

In California, the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) enforces employment discrimination laws, and every year, it receives thousands of complaints alleging violations, including for discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. For instance, in 2022 (the most recent statistics), the CRD received 12,457 right-to-sue requests — where the complainant seeks authority to independently pursue litigation — that included 1,495 cases and 1,634 cases alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, respectively. Additionally, in 2022, the CRD updated its guidance on the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming employees in the workplace. Some of the key examples of workplace rights includes the right to dress in a way and be addressed by the name and pronouns that correspond with your gender identity or expression. The CRD makes clear that all employees, job applicants, unpaid interns, volunteers and contractors are protected from discrimination at work when based on a protected characteristic, such as gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

One way to celebrate Pride Month and begin to make your workplace welcoming for all is to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In fact, young LGBTQ+ employees expect inclusive workplaces — and 97 percent of LGBTQ+ workers who rated their organization’s inclusion efforts favorably intend to stay with their employer another year, according to the 2024 EY US LGBTQ+ Workplace Barometer report. Comparatively, only 38 percent who gave their employer a lower rating expected to stay with their employer for more than a year.

A solid place to start is by training employees to understand DEI, which helps create an environment where people can thrive. CalChamber’s Foundations of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion online course includes real-world examples of workplace scenarios that could be impeding your organization’s progress toward becoming more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

Katie Culliton, Editor, CalChamber

CalChamber members can use the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy (also in Spanish), which can demonstrate your commitment to fostering a diverse workforce, providing the opportunity for advancement for all individuals and ensuring equity in the workplace for all employees, on HRCalifornia. Not a member? See how CalChamber can help you.

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