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Companies can't afford to ignore challenges faced by LGBT employees

In the United States, workers are protected against suffering acts of discrimination and harassment due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion, age or disability. While federal employment laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 don't explicitly protect individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, in recent years several successful lawsuits have been filed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees claiming workplace harassment and discrimination.

The announcement by former Olympian Bruce Jenner that he is transgender, legally changing his name to Caitlyn Jenner and transitioning to become a woman; has shined a spotlight on the many challenges that transgender men and women face both in their personal and professional lives. As employees who fall outside of society's dictated gender norms continue to speak up and come out to their employers, companies would be wise to take steps to proactively address issues surrounding the rights of transgender employees.

Today an estimated 67 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies have established, "non-discrimination policies that include gender identity and/or gender expression." However, simply having such a policy does not equate to actually understanding the unique challenges transgender employees face. To provide for a more inclusive work environment for transgender employees and prevent possible acts of harassment and discrimination, employers would be wise to conduct transgender awareness training sessions.

For a business, investing in these types of training and education sessions not only shows a company's commitment to diversity and inclusion, but also may protect against future lawsuits. LGBT employees are entitled to the same rights and protections as all employees and companies who fail to take action and establish policies and trainings to address these types of issues may end up paying in the long run.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Transgender Awareness Training: A Business Essential,"Vanessa Sheridan, Aug. 31, 2015

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