Sexual Orientation Diversity in the Workplace

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  • 0:04 Protected Classes by…
  • 0:53 Sexual Orientation in…
  • 1:52 Challenges in the Workplace
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Sexual orientation has received a lot of attention in the news and courts, but all types of diversity generally have. In this lesson, we'll learn how this impacts the workplace and what managers should know to ensure they respect a diverse workforce.

Protected Classes by Federal Law

Through the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has identified seven classes of people that are protected in the workplace, meaning they can't be fired simply for those reasons. These classes are race, age (if over 40), color, religion, national origin, gender, and disability. At the federal level, sexual orientation is not a protected class, although there are efforts to make it so.

One of the important concepts to take away from this lesson is that whether a minority status is protected or not, research has found that diversity is good for the workplace. Even more important than that, a smart manager or business person is after one thing when he is hiring: the best candidate for the position. Being able to look past any of the protected classes, but even more so, those that aren't protected, like sexual orientation, can help businesses succeed by getting the right people in the right positions.

Sexual Orientation in the Workplace

While the federal protected classes do not yet include sexual orientation, as of February 2017, 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, have all considered sexual orientation a protected class and/or have decided that having gender as a protected class also protects gender identification. But, whether or not sexual orientation is a protected class is just a very small part of what it means to appreciate diversity in your workplace.

Groups and teams generally come up with better solutions to problems than individuals, simply because there is more experience and the opportunity to collaborate exists. The more diverse that group is, the more this can improve the brainstorming and impact the work the group does. Every person has a unique lens through which he sees the world, and this frames the experiences he uses when facing questions or solving problems. Diversity changes those perspectives and frames, which is how increasing diversity can increase creativity, innovation, and ultimately, help solve problems in the workplace.

Challenges in the Workplace

Unfortunately, sexual orientation diversity can cause challenges in the workplace. When the courts decided segregation was unconstitutional, there were still people that had a hard time adapting to this change. The same is now true with sexual orientation diversity. This is why sensitivity training and harassment training is so important. Training may not be able to force people to change their beliefs or opinions about certain things, but it can provide them with the important knowledge that when they are at work, they are an agent of the organization, and that organization has values and a code of conduct they must follow.

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