The Role of Allies: How Straight Co-Workers Can Combat LGBTQ Discrimination

By Douglas Lipsky

In today’s workplace, LGBTQ employees often face subtle and overt discrimination that can undermine their professional and personal well-being. This discrimination ranges from derogatory comments and exclusion to unfair hiring practices and promotion barriers. However, straight allies play a crucial role in fostering inclusivity. 

By fighting discriminatory behaviors and advocating for equitable policies, allies can help create a supportive environment where all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feel valued and respected. Here’s how.

Understanding LGBTQ Discrimination

LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace encompasses a range of negative actions and attitudes towards individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. This type of discrimination manifests in various ways:

  • Exclusion: LGBTQ employees may be deliberately excluded from social gatherings, team projects, or critical meetings, limiting their professional growth and networking opportunities.
  • Harassment: This can include derogatory jokes, slurs, and even physical harassment, creating a hostile work environment.
  • Hiring and promotional bias: LGBTQ individuals may face biases during hiring processes or be overlooked for promotions, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.

Allies in the workplace can help by recognizing these behaviors and taking action against them. By promoting a culture of equality and respect, allies ensure that all employees, regardless of their LGBTQ status, have equal opportunities to succeed.

The Impact of Allyship

Allyship in the workplace plays a pivotal role in combating LGBTQ discrimination and fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect. When straight co-workers actively support their LGBTQ colleagues, it challenges existing prejudices and promotes a broader acceptance within the team. Allies can significantly influence the work environment by setting an example through their actions, showing that discrimination is unacceptable.

Moreover, effective allyship can enhance the overall workplace morale and productivity by ensuring that all employees feel safe and valued. This supportive environment encourages LGBTQ employees to fully participate and contribute their best work without fear of bias or exclusion. In turn, companies benefit from diverse perspectives and experiences, which can lead to more innovative solutions and a more harmonious workplace.

Practical steps to becoming an LGBTQ ally

Becoming an effective ally to LGBTQ colleagues involves more than just good intentions; it requires active, continuous efforts to support and advocate for inclusivity. Here are some practical steps you can take to become a stronger ally in your workplace:

  • Educate yourself: Learn about LGBTQ issues, rights, and challenges. Resources like books, documentaries, and reputable websites can provide valuable insights.
  • Speak out: Challenge discriminatory remarks or jokes when you hear them. Silence often implies complicity, so it’s important to voice your disapproval of such behavior.
  • Show support publicly: Attend LGBTQ events at work, such as Pride celebrations or diversity workshops, to show your support visibly.
  • Promote inclusivity: Encourage your HR department to implement or improve inclusive policies like gender-neutral restrooms or non-discriminatory hiring practices.
  • Stand by your colleagues: Support your LGBTQ colleagues in meetings and team projects. Ensure their voices are heard and valued.

By taking these steps, you can help fight discrimination and contribute to a culture of acceptance and respect. Allyship is a powerful tool in the push for equality and can significantly impact your workplace environment.

Legal Responsibilities and Protections

Employers and employees in New York have legal responsibilities to uphold non-discriminatory practices. This includes adhering to federal, state, and city laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Employers must ensure that their workplace policies explicitly protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination and harassment. 

Allies can play a crucial role in enforcing these protections by staying informed about the legal rights of LGBTQ individuals and advocating for compliance within their organizations. They can help identify gaps in existing policies and work towards creating a safer, more inclusive work environment that respects and protects everyone’s rights.

The Power of Allies

Allies have the power to significantly improve the workplace for LGBTQ colleagues by educating themselves, speaking out against discrimination, and advocating for fair policies. If you witness or experience LGBTQ discrimination in your workplace, talk to an employment lawyer.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.