Shelby Rice, Taylor Novak, Alexis Thieman, and Bailey Honeywell
Most the United States have not passed laws to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace. Barack Obama signed an Executive Order on July 21st, 2014 that prohibits federal contractors from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This order bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification for federal contractors but does not ban discrimination for all companies nationally (Pizer, Sears, et al.). Some states have passed laws to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace, but Nebraska is not one of them.
The state of Nebraska came to an overwhelming consensus to reject a bill that would add the LGBT community as a minority, protecting them from discrimination. Even though Nebraska as a state rejected the bill, Omaha passed a law to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the nondiscrimination statement. The Omaha law requires companies to include these categories in the nondiscrimination statement, but does not require companies to extend benefits to the spouse of the same-sex couple. The information will be gathered from looking at the websites and policies of different Omaha based employers. This study is going to examine the policies of different employers in Omaha, looking to see if they incorporate the LGBT community in their nondiscriminatory policies.
The analysis began by searching the websites of the top employers in Omaha for their nondiscrimination statements. The companies researched were: Methodist Health Systems, Union Pacific, Walmart, ConAgra Foods, and Omaha Public Schools. After finding that every company included sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination statements, it was found on Omaha’s website that Omaha has a law in place requiring all companies to include those minorities.
The focus of the project was then redirected to the benefits offered by the company, and if they are extended to the spouse of same-sex relationships. The benefits were found on the websites of each company, but a phone call had to be made to each of the companies to find out if the benefits were extended to the same-sex spouse. After collecting the data, trends were searched for in the information on each company’s website.
Several themes emerged while interpreting the data. The themes are: Religion is incorporate in the company’s values, benefits are extended to same-sex spouses, variety of inclusiveness of categories in the nondiscrimination statement, visuals of their participation in the LGBT community, webpage devoted to nondiscrimination statements, and nondiscrimination statement is incorporated into a larger policy spectrum.
Findings and Analysis
After interpreting the data, it was found that each company extended the benefits to same-sex spouses. Figure 1 shows a pie chart of the data. This figure demonstrates that 100% of the studied companies extended benefits to the same-sex spouse and 0% did not extend benefits. This is controversial because Nebraska doesn’t recognize same sex marriages, but all the studied companies extended benefits to the same sex spouse so long as they were in a common-law marriage. Omaha is a very inclusive city and overall a very good place for the LGBT community to work and feel comfortable.
The first theme that emerged is: Religion is incorporated in the company’s values. Methodist Health Systems (MHS) was the only company researched that had religion incorporated in their values. This was an important aspect of the company because some religions do not support the LGBT community, so if a company is religious it is unlikely that they will support the LGBT community as much as other companies do. MHS did in fact support the LGBT community like the other companies by including them in the nondiscrimination statement and extending benefits to the same-sex spouse.
The article, “‘Out’ at Work: The Relation of Actor and Partner Workplace Policy and Internalized Homophobia to Disclosure Status” discusses what effect it can have on a same sex couple if their workplaces have different policies in place. For example, if one spouse’s work protects the LGBT community from discrimination and encourages them to express themselves but the other spouse’s work does not (a potentially religious company), it could get the other spouse into some unfavorable situations such as harassment, discrimination, and loss of their job. This would make it a difficult decision for the couple because if one spouse discloses the information that they are LGBT, the other spouse would be exposed and if their employer is not supportive – because of religion or other reasons – it could cause some issues. It could also cause issues if one spouse has not completely overcome the homophobia in the social environment and/or the homophobia incorporated into views of thyself. It would cause controversy and require compromising of the couple if one spouse is not mentally prepared to come “out” to the public but the other spouse wants to disclose the fact that they are a couple and are LGBT (Rostosky and Riggle).
Extension of Benefits
The second theme states: Benefits are extended to same-sex spouses. After calling each company because this policy was not stated on their website, the results showed that the five chosen companies all extended benefits to the same-sex spouse. For Nebraska, this is controversial because same-sex marriage is not honored in the state. The companies recognized this and still extend the benefits to the spouse if they are in a common-law marriage. The article, “In Good Companies” talks about how in 2004 the progression of gays in the workplace is significantly higher than the progress in 2003. The progress made discussed how companies are expanding their nondiscrimination policies and how benefits are beginning to be provided to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees the same they do to straight spouses. It has been over a decade since this study was done, which is a lot of time for progress (Henneman).
Progress is seen in Omaha in the extension of benefits to the same sex spouse because the law does not require benefits to be provided, but 100% of the largest Omaha companies chosen extend the benefits regardless. This article connects to the theme because it measures progress by the LGBT community in the workplace by identifying if benefits are provided to the same sex spouse or not. Since 100% of the chosen Omaha companies extend benefits, it is safe to assume that the LGBT community is making significant progress in the workplace and are closer to equality than ever before.
Variety of Inclusiveness
The third theme is: Variety of inclusiveness of categories in the nondiscrimination statement. Each company included different categories in their nondiscrimination statement, some including more and some including less. “Gender Identity Issues and Workplace Discrimination: The Transgender Experience” is an article that talks about how transgender individuals feel in their work environment. Since over half of the United States does not require companies to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination statements, many transgender individuals were concerned about losing their jobs when they came “out” to the upper management. Not only do they have to worry about losing their jobs, but they also worry about the discrimination that comes from their coworkers and the upper management, since they are not legally protected from that. This applies to the study being done because currently over half of the country does not protect the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace, so the variety of inclusiveness of categories in the nondiscrimination statement would be less in those states. In Nebraska, it is not required to include the LGBT community but in Omaha it is. Other cities in different states may also be in the same situation. The variety of inclusiveness would be less because sexual orientation and gender identity would not be included in the nondiscrimination statements. (Dietert and Dentice).
Safe Work Environment
The fourth theme is: Promotion of a safe and inclusive work environment. Of the companies studies, three did not highly promote the LGBT inclusiveness nor a safe and inviting work environment. However, Walmart had a webpage where they included examples of how their workplace is safe for all people and they want the individual to express themselves. Walmart had a page dedicated to the LGBT community, which stated that discrimination against the community was prohibited. Union Pacific had a webpage where they stated they are the best place for the LGBT community to work, implying they have an open work environment and invite individuals to express themselves. The other 3 companies studied did not include a webpage like this.
“Outing the Discrimination Towards LGBT People During the Hiring Process: What About Their Well-being” applies to this theme because it discusses how the discrimination during the hiring process affects the applicant’s psychological well-being. The study found there is a link between discrimination and a declination in psychological well-being. Several individuals stated they only came out to certain individuals in the workplace, some including the upper management. It was a risk because they could potentially lose their job, but also because of the discrimination and harassment they could encounter after coming out. Even the different treatment while joking around makes the individuals feel discriminated against, such as stopping mid-joke because the individual is in the room. When the individuals experienced discrimination, their psychological well-being decreased, which shows that when the work environment isn’t safe and inviting the individuals suffer from it. Some individuals in the study felt the need to quit their job due to the discrimination in the workplace after coming out. The study stated that 21% of the individuals interviewed had been harassed during their hiring process due to being LGBT. Another aspect the article discussed was the pay difference between LGBT and straight individuals. If the upper management discovers the individual is LGBT, they won’t get paid as much as if they were perceived as straight (Luiggi- Hernández, Torres, et al.).
“Workplace Support, Discrimination, and Person-Organization Fit: Tests of the Theory of Work Adjustment with LGB Individuals” also applies to this theme because it assessed the frequency of workplace heterosexist discrimination. They asked if an individual had been in a situation where their supervisors or co-workers discriminated against them. The discrimination can include telling jokes about the LGB community. There was also a study done on the supportiveness in the workplace. It was hypothesized that a workplace with heterosexist discrimination is negatively linked to job satisfaction, and a LGB-supportive workplace has a positive link to job satisfaction. These hypotheses were supported by the results of the study, showing that a LGB-supportive workplace has higher job satisfaction than a workplace with heterosexist discrimination. This means that the individuals are happier in their workplace and feel safer going to work every day when they are supported (Velez and Moradi).
Transformative Learning is being used in workplaces to help continue Sexual Identity Development in the workplace. The article, “A Transformative Learning Perspective of Continuing Sexual Identity Development in the Workplace” discusses what transformative learning is and how it is useful in the workplace. It helps co-workers understand how an LGBTQ adult copes with difficult topics such as politics and religion, and separating the effects of those topics on their personal lives from their professional lives. This type of learning focused on the cognitive process adults experience as the examine their values, beliefs, and assumptions that they may have never considered. It addresses the adult’s frame of reference. This learning style offers the time for an adult to reflect on their experiences and self-understanding framework. Adults will the experience change from the inside out. This is done through reflection on oneself, learning about all the terms that define someone, and action. The idea behind this exercise is for all adults to understand, recognize and appreciate the journey it takes for those who are members of the LGBT community to come to self-peace. The training then leads to the coworkers understanding the LGBTQ does exist and how to be aware of the individual’s feelings and understandings. It also gives them tools on how to handle learning about someone’s identity or orientation. Individuals are also taught about the process of coming out to oneself, this might include all the feelings one might feel in the beginning and how to deal with those feelings and sort through them. Then finally, they talk about what it takes for an individual to come out to others and all the obstacles they may continue to face once they have come out (King and Biro).
Union Pacific does training for all team members on how to be conscious and aware of how to state and say specific things to others. They hire team members on the potential they seem in them and the new hirer’s ability to better the company. Union Pacific wants members on their team for their abilities. This means that everyone needs to be trained on hot topics, such as the LGBT community, because losing a member due to discrimination or comments that are said is a very sad loss for the company, as it is something that could and should been prevented (King and Biro). This applies to the fourth theme of creating a safe and inviting work environment because it is teaching the employees that it is important to be aware of other individual’s feelings, thus creating a safe environment for the not only the LGBT community, but for everyone. When individuals are aware of their coworker’s feelings and take them into consideration, it will likely make the LGBT individuals feel more safe to come out and express themselves in the workplace without being discriminated against.
“Evidence of Persistent and Pervasive Workplace Discrimination Against LGBT People: The Need for Federal Legislation Prohibiting Discrimination and Providing for Equal Employment Benefits” also applies to theme 4 because it talks about a study done on discrimination in the workplace. A survey was conducted showing that even with the laws in place, discrimination towards the LGBT community is still occurring. The research also supported that discrimination is higher in states that don’t have laws in place protecting the LGBT community from discrimination. Many people choose to hide that they are LGBT to prevent discrimination towards them, which shouldn’t have to happen. This ties back to theme 4 because it shows that a lot of companies still allow discrimination of the LGBT community, and don’t provide a safe and inviting work environment. A work environment is safe, open, and inviting if the employees feel they can express themselves without the chance of discrimination (Pizer, Sears, et al.).
The fifth and sixth themes arose from looking at each individual company’s website. Something that stood out was whether the company had a webpage devoted solely to the nondiscrimination statement, or whether they chose to include the nondiscrimination information on a larger web page. The article, “In Good Companies” by Todd Henneman explains that many companies talk about having a diverse work environment but don’t necessarily practice it. A study was conducted to depict 10 good places for LGBT individuals to work based upon information provided by the companies, insight from employees, and research published in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2004 Corporate Equality Index, which takes 379 companies and ranks them on a scale of 0-100. The list of companies is not the top 10 best places to work, but rather 10 places that have enlightened the workplace practices and protections. This would also connect to theme 4 because it is discussing the workplace environment and practices, and how the LGBT community is making progress in the workplace in terms of protection and nondiscrimination. As the data was analyzed, it was noticed that the LGBT community has continued to make significant progress in the workplace since the last study was done a year prior. It was found that several companies expanded their nondiscrimination policies, which connects to the fifth and sixth themes by the variety of inclusiveness in the nondiscrimination statements. If progress is being made and companies are expanding their nondiscrimination policies, there will likely be a webpage devoted solely to either the LGBT community or to the company’s nondiscrimination statement if there isn’t a webpage already devoted (Henneman).
Additionally, “‘Out’ at Work: The Relation of Actor and Partner Workplace Policy and Internalized Homophobia to Disclosure Status.” speaks on the topic of “coming out” in the workplace. The article explains that people within the LGBT community are more likely to “come out” if they feel supported in the workplace, and that having workplace policies that are supportive of the LGBT community have positive impacts on both the employer and the employees. The emotional advantages of having policies that are supportive of the LGBT community are very apparent. If a person feels more comfortable being themself in their work environment, they will be able to put more effort into their actual job. Nondiscrimination policies indicate that a company is trying to normalize the workplace. If a company includes more information other than the normal nondiscrimination statement, that is going to tell their prospective future employee, or even a customer that they are putting in large efforts to make their company more accepting of the LGBT community, which in-turn makes for happier employees as well as happier customers in some cases (Rostosky and Riggle).
When looking at the top five companies that were chosen for the current study, Omaha Public Schools had a plain webpage that was solely devoted to their nondiscrimination statement. MHS’s web page was dedicated to informing the public about the Methodist Hospitals as well as offering more information about the hospitals and affiliations. MHS also included a handbook that was dedicated to informing the future employee of certain procedures. Union Pacific included their nondiscrimination statement alongside their diversity training, policy and practices, and a portion on harassment. Walmart’s web page was perhaps a dream for the LGBT community. Their nondiscrimination statement is included along with an entire page dedicated to explaining how Walmart includes everyone and invites all individuals to express themselves. The LGBT community has their own category and their own section about the participation in the LGBT community. It was included that some Walmart stores lead certain pride events around the nation, as well as mentioning a man who organized Walmart to be awarded an honor for being the largest pride parade contingent. The webpage also includes many statements from Walmart store leaders on LGBT issues. ConAgra Foods is a tricky webpage to write conclusions upon. At the beginning of the project, ConAgra had a huge webpage devoted to the LGBT community. It explained how their company was one of the biggest leaders in the nation when it came to the LGBT community. The website explained that they participate in pride festivals, as well as how they have an LGBT network within their workplace. The old website included the quote, “We are the only large employer in Omaha that has a company-sponsored ERN for LGBT employees. Because of this, more employees feel comfortable being able to “be themselves” at work. In addition to our LGBT employees, our allies also feel comfortable participating in our events.” Additionally, it included that it was voted one of the best places to work for the LGBT community by the Equality Human Rights Campaign Foundation in 2010 for the third consecutive year. ConAgra has since then redone their website, and includes different information along with their nondiscrimination statement. They include a list of their ERN groups, which includes the ConAgra Asian Network, ConAgra Black Employees Network, ConAgra Illuminations- LGBT Employees and Allies, ConAgra Latino Network, ConAgra Veterans Network, ConAgra Women’s Network, and ConAgra Young Professionals Network. Although their “revamped” webpage includes significantly less amount of information on their involvement with the LGBT community, it still includes that the company has an LGBT network, it just doesn’t go into the community involvement aspect of it.
Even though the state of Nebraska rejected the bill to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace, the city of Omaha passed a bill to protect those minorities. The Omaha law does not require employers to provide benefits to the spouse of a same sex marriage, but of the companies chosen to research, 100% of them extended benefits regardless of the Omaha law and if the company was affiliated with a religion. Overall, this shows that Omaha is an inviting and accepting city to the LGBT community despite the laws of the state. From here, researchers could take the project to a larger scale and explore the benefit extensions of all companies in Omaha.
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