Workplace Diversity: How to Attract Gay Employees

In 34 states, it is still perfectly legal for lesbian and gay employees to be fired simply because their employers discover, and disapprove of, their sexual orientation.

Since 1974 the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been introduced as legislation and has been successfully defeated for nearly four decades. The 113th Congress might decide to break the standoff and finally pass this important piece of legislation. ENDA was created to prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for employers with at least 15 employees. On November 7, 2013, ENDA was passed by the Senate by a vote of 64-32 and is now awaiting a vote by the House of Representatives.

If the House of Representatives passes ENDA, companies will be forced to think about developing best hiring practices to attract a more diverse workforce. Developing this type of environment inside the workplace isn't an easy task but can be accomplished with a few simple guidelines.

Follow the leader. Each year the Human Rights Campaign puts out a list of the best places to work in terms of LGBT equality. When creating best practices, it's essential to take advice and follow those who have already established a workplace that is worthy enough to be on the HRC's list. Find out which companies on the list operate like your company and seek them out. Almost all of these companies either have a Diversity Committee or VP of Corporate Diversity, who are usually more than willing to help point you in the right direction.

Treat people like people. A common-sense best practice is treating people like people. Any questions that reveal your age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation are already off-limits in workplace interviews. Personal viewpoints aside, a gay employee is just as capable as their straight counterpart. All people, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be treated based on their merit and contributions of their work.

Start small. No one expects a company to adopt policies overnight that puts them at the top of the list when it comes to LGBT-friendly workplaces. Attracting gay employees doesn't necessarily mean that you're seeking them out specifically, but you're creating an environment that makes them want to work for your company. As a gay man I would never apply for companies that have a history of workplace intolerance when it comes to the LGBT community. I also wouldn't apply for companies that support anti-LGBT organizations.

Promoting workplace diversity programs doesn't just create a more open environment; it has many bottom-line benefits. Employees who feel connected will have higher productivity rates. They'll be more affable in the workplace and feel like a part of the overall work environment. If you work in HR and you're looking to develop a more diverse workplace, don't try and get on the HRC's "best places to work" list your first year. Start small and implement simple policies that make a world of difference to the LGBT community.