NEW YORK (AP) — Some small business owners already working to make their companies more welcoming to LGBT employees say the massacre at a gay dance club in Orlando gives them an impetus to make more changes.
“I’ve committed to myself and within our executive team to redouble our efforts to create a safer, kinder, more accepting workplace,” says Frank Maylett, CEO of RizePoint, a company that makes software to help restaurant owners, hotel operators and retailers manage multiple locations.
RizePoint had already taken steps like providing health and other benefits to employees’ domestic partners and removing gender references in its handbook so that “paternity” and “maternity” leaves are now “parental” leave. And when an employee last year planned to have sex reassignment surgery, managers including the then-CEO met with the staffer and offered support.
Since the attacks, Salt Lake City-based RizePoint has reviewed its handbook and policies.
“We’ve had numerous executive, company and personal opportunities to discuss and reinforce our company standards,” Maylett says.
At the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, a man with a semi-automatic weapon went on a bloody rampage. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, with 49 people killed and more than 50 wounded. Officials have said a goal of the investigation is determining why the gunman, an American who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, targeted the gay community.
The attack has increased Tim Andrews’ awareness of the need to provide acceptance and safety for all employees.
“Everyone’s thinking about it. People want to be in an environment where they really want to work,” says Andrews, CEO of the Advertising Specialty Institute, which runs a trade group for companies in the promotional products industry. The Trevose, Pennsylvania-based company recently wrote a statement of its values that includes the fact that it embraces employees’ diverse sexual orientations.
“We just had hired a number of new people, and asked, ‘How do we make sure that everyone who’s working here knows what we define as the right thing?'” Andrews says.
Many business owners who want their companies to be inclusive for employees and customers of any nationality, race, religion or gender have become more mindful in recent years about explicitly being more welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and to those whose gender isn’t male or female.
Changes to laws and policies are part of that; for example, the end to the military‘s “don’t ask, don’t tell” standard and the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage that led to last year’s Supreme Court ruling that gay people have the right to marry. The current debate over laws requiring people to use public restrooms that correspond to their sex at birth have provided more food for thought.
The LGBT community has also made companies more aware, says Rob Wilson, CEO of Westmont, Illinois-based human resources provider Employco.
“People are being more open about their sexuality,” Wilson says. “Ten years ago, they might not have been.”
Companies also want LGBT job candidates to know they’re welcome, says Midge Seltzer, president of Engage PEO, a human resources provider based in Hollywood, Florida.
“Everyone’s competing for the top talent. By adopting these policies, you’re going to look like a more progressive company,” Seltzer says. Inclusiveness also contributes to a more productive work atmosphere, she says.
At the Chicago-based human resources software company Jellyvision, employees created a banner with messages of support for Orlando. The company’s policy of acceptance made them feel it was OK to collaborate on the project, says Mary Beth Wynn, head of human resources.
Jellyvision managers began thinking about inclusivity last year when they hired a transgender employee. They realized the frequently asked questions for prospective employees on the company’s website didn’t indicate that managers would be responsive to issues such as the fact that some people don’t use pronouns like “he” or “she,” and instead use “they” or other wording.
“It (the website) wasn’t signaling how open and welcoming we are,” Wynn says. The site was changed to include information addressing possible concerns of transgender job candidates.
Another question was how or whether to communicate to Jellyvision staffers the way their new colleague wanted to be addressed. The company decided managers should ask new employees how they want it handled.
INGUARD, an insurance broker and adviser in Wabash, Indiana, is again looking at its policies following the Orlando shooting, says owner Parker Beauchamp.
“We’ve got to be constantly thinking about how we can evolve and be more inclusive,” Beauchamp says.
The company revises its anti-discrimination policy each year and asks employees to sign a form stating they have read and understood its contents, Beauchamp says. He has also made changes at the company’s building. Communal restrooms for males and females were made unisex during renovations two years ago. There are also private unisex restrooms.
“People should be allowed to have a choice,” Beauchamp says.
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