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The LGBTQ Community, workplace sexual harassment and discrimination

Workplace sexual harassment is a serious and widespread issue. The #MeToo movement has brought it to the public’s attention, which is certainly helpful. Anyone can face discrimination or sexual harassment at work.

However, disproportionate targeting over the years has long been a reality for the LGBTQ community when it comes to workplace sexual harassment. A community member whose sexual predilections are common knowledge might be a target, and those situations can be tough to deal with for the individual.

Here are some workplace sexual harassment aspects about which the LGBTQ community should be aware.

It Can Happen Anywhere

Workplace sexual harassment can happen in any field. LGBTQ military members face it frequently. Other areas where it can be an issue include:

  • Politics
  • Banking
  • Professional sports
  • Medical professions
  • Retail
  • Food service
  • And many more

In a nutshell, no industry is safe from this problem, so it can pop up in virtually any workplace scenario. LGBTQ individuals choose to face this in different ways.

Some of them never address what is going on, fearing retribution or job loss. Others report what’s happening to HR or they go higher up the corporate ladder. Still, others feel so pressured that they leave to pursue another work situation.

You can’t be terminated for sexual preference or gender identity

landmark case just decided by the Supreme Court guaranteed protections to LGBTQ individuals. Now, there is protection from job termination for people who are:

  • Transgender
  • Openly gay or a lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Queer or nonbinary-identifying

This victory, coming during Pride Month, is terrific news for the cause. Going forward, it seems as though termination for sexual identity or preference hopefully won’t be an issue.

Of course, while this court case’s outcome is a huge blow to discrimination, we still have to see how quickly and well cities and states enforce it. In theory, though, the LGBTQ community should be in a better position to fight back if bigoted employers wrongfully terminate them.

Sexual harassment can be verbal

Even though the community can rejoice in this Supreme Court outcome, that doesn’t mean workplace sexual harassment isn’t still an issue. Rather than fire someone based on sexual preference or gender identity, employees or employers might try to get them to quit through inappropriate behavior.

Sexual harassment might consist of inappropriate comments. It can take the form of speculating about an employee’s personal life. Asking them questions about their partner, dating habits, or sex life are all boundaries that coworkers shouldn’t cross.

Telling dirty or suggestive jokes is also poor workplace behavior, as is bragging about sexual conquests or exploits. Other verbal harassment might include suggesting sexual trysts with someone, and then trying to explain it away as joking or kidding.

It can be physical as well

Unwanted physical contact is another common sexual harassment form. That might mean touching without consent, even putting a lingering hand on someone’s shoulder, resting it on top of their head, stroking their hair, etc.

This sort of thing might not seem overtly sexual, but if it makes you uncomfortable, then you can view it as harassing behavior. Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden has spoken about invading former staffers’ personal space. He talked about his behavior and how it might have made others feel violated, and he has committed to changing it in the future.

More obvious behavior is also sexual harassment. Pinching, stroking, grabbing various body parts, or any other unwanted contact qualifies.

Be aware of forced arbitration clauses

LGBTQ community members, and indeed all employees, should be on the lookout for forced arbitration clauses when they sign an employment contract. There is a ton of detail in these contracts, and businesses will sometimes try to slip in one of these clauses.

With forced arbitration, a company brings in a supposedly impartial outside arbitrator if an employee accuses another of sexual harassment. They suggest this as an alternative to the wronged party suing the individual or the company.

The problem is that these arbitrations almost always seem to go in favour of the accused person, rather than the accuser. It is a way to deal with the problem internally so that it goes away, and the business entity receives no bad press.

LGBTQ community members should refuse to sign contracts that include such clauses. It’s great that the Supreme Court handed down the decision that it did. However, getting rid of forced arbitration is another way for individuals to protect themselves from workplace sexual misconduct.

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