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April 2012 Diversity Article-Sexual Orientation in the Workplace

April 3, 2012

Sexual Orientation in the Workplace

Abadis Ruiz-Gilbert, Diversity Committee Volunteer


Although there may be many reasons why we need a job, the primary objective is to make money and bring food to the table.   But, we are all humans with different personalities and characteristics, and among co-workers we want to be accepted for who we are.  Don’t you agree?  At a motivation class, a professor once said, wouldn’t you like to go to work and feel loved or feel like you are part of a family? So when we spend eight hours (or more) a day,  five times a week, with the same co-workers, you may find someone you get along with,  someone you identify better with or you just might feel comfortable in  your own little world. On the other hand, what if you feel isolated or you are treated differently because of your race, your color, your accent or your sexual orientation? No matter the situation, the point is that we should all be treated the same and included in the same work activities regardless of our different characteristics. Many organizations are working very hard to respect and appreciate diversity in the workplace. But this is not an easy task, “businesses who embark upon launching diversity initiatives often struggle with the issue of sexual orientation in the workplace(Risser, 1996, para. 4).

If you would be asked to do a diversity assessment of your organization, can you say that your organization provides a fair workplace and does not discriminates based on sexual orientation? “Many people use their religion as the reason to be bigoted toward those who are different” (Risser, 1996, para. 12). Others may say that because a bill to ban sexual orientation is not yet passed, they can take adverse action against these GLBT’s. The truth of the matter is that “neither the government nor businesses expect workers to change their beliefs or values as it relates to sexual orientation or any other difference among other people at work” (para. 4), and it does not mean that employees can get away with inappropriate comments about GLBT’s employees without putting the company in risk to be liable.  The bottom line is that “whether an employee is GLBT or straight she or he has the right to earn a living in a non-hostile environment” (para. 8). This means an environment free of rumors and bad comments that can “negatively affect the work productivity and can be offensive to heterosexuals who are not biased in this way, and many workers who have friends and relatives who are other than heterosexual” (para 5).

“GLBT’s are in the workplace and in the market place, each time prejudice is tolerated the business runs the risk of litigation, lost business, and a lost opportunity to attract and retain the best talent for the job, regardless of sexual orientation” (Risser, 1996, para. 13).  To conclude the article, Risser (1996), made a list of suggestions to make organization learn more about the issue (para. 14-18):

a) Write down the reasons your think you are or would be uncomfortable working with a person whose sexuality is different from yours.
b) Talk to your religious or spiritual leader about this issue. Be willing to seek clarity regarding contradictions you perceive about behavior and your faith's teachings.

c) Have the courage to talk to someone whose sexuality is different than your own. Inform the person that you want to learn and understand. Ask for permission to ask her or him a few questions. (Remember that the answers represent that person, not everyone in the group.)
d) If your company has a support group for people who are other than heterosexual, attend a meeting.
e) Visit "chat rooms" on the Internet, and ask questions about your fears and beliefs.


Risser R. (1996). The new diversity: The dilemma continues. Professional Speaker Magazine. Retrieved from