We hope many more South Dakota employers of all shapes and sizes will take a proactive step toward inclusiveness, and adopt our model policy.  Here you will find resources that outline what we think are the most compelling reasons inclusive policies are good for businesses and communities alike.  If you decide to update your company’s policy, let us know at info@eqsd.org so we can add you to our list of Champion Employers.

Top 5 reasons this policy is good for your company:

  1. It makes your company better able to compete for the most talented employees. We know that competing for the best employees can be tough, and even the slightest edge can make the difference between an experienced prospective employee deciding to work for your company…or the other one.  LGBT employees absolutely take non-discrimination policies into account when deciding where to work.
  2. Companies who include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression have more loyal, productive employees. If LGBT employees know that they do not have to worry about being fired because they mention their partner at work, they’re more likely to feel included in the workplace, and are more likely to stay long-term, and are more productive while they are there.  Clearly, it is significantly less expensive to retain existing employees than to train new ones, making this a cost-effective way to retain good employees.
  3. Putting existing good intentions on paper makes sure that everyone follows them. We know your company doesn’t want to intentionally discriminate against anyone.  That doesn’t mean, however, that every person at your company who makes hiring or firing decisions knows that.  If your policy does not spell out that you will not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, a manager might get the wrong idea, and think that this kind of discrimination is acceptable.  With a policy in place, your company is able to systematically train everyone, so that all decisions are in line with your workplace culture.
  4. LGBT consumers have $600 billion in purchasing power, and many people know which companies have policies that include their community, and which ones don’t.  Not only does expanding your non-discrimination policy help attract and retain loyal employees, but it also helps attract and retain loyal consumers.  In a world where 491 of the Fortune 500 companies have similar policies, smaller companies cannot afford to fall behind their competitors.
  5. It’s FREE! It isn’t often a business has the chance to do something to attract employees and consumers that does not cost them a dime, but this is one of those times.  Changing your policy is a cost-effective way to bring your company in line with 21st century best practices, and remain as competitive as possible among existing and potential employees, as well as consumer markets.

Why Inclusiveness Helps Your Company

Workplace Fairness Project

What does the project do?

The goal of the project is to successfully encourage cities, school boards, private employers, statewide associations, and tribal organizations to make their policies inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

There is overwhelming support for such policies, both nationally and in South Dakota.  According to a May 2008 Gallup poll, 89 percent of respondents said that gay people should be protected from being unfairly fired.  In October 2008, Equality South Dakota conducted an informal poll of South Dakota voters, and found that 77% of those who responded would support a federal law to protect LGBT employees from discrimination.

What might a model policy look like?

Wells Fargo’s policy says this:

It is company policy to provide equal opportunity in all employment decisions (such as compensation, benefits, transfers, leaves, returns from leave, company-sponsored training, education, education reimbursement and social and recreational programs) for all qualified applicants and team members, without regard to race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, marital status, veteran status or any other status protected by federal, state or local law.

Exact policy language may vary from one employer to the next.  The important part is that the policy should spell out that they will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Top 5 reasons this policy is good for your company:

  1. It makes your company better able to compete for the most talented employees.  We know that competing for the best employees can be tough, and even the slightest edge can make the difference between an experienced prospective employee deciding to work for your company…or the other one.  LGBT employees absolutely take non-discrimination policies into account when deciding where to work.
  1. Companies who include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression have more loyal, productive employees.  If LGBT employees know that they do not have to worry about being fired because they mention their partner at work, they’re more likely to feel included in the workplace, and are more likely to stay long-term, and are more productive while they are there.  Clearly, it is significantly less expensive to retain existing employees than to train new ones, making this a cost-effective way to retain good employees.
  1. Putting existing good intentions on paper makes sure that everyone follows them.  We know your company doesn’t want to intentionally discriminate against anyone.  That doesn’t mean, however, that every person at your company who makes hiring or firing decisions knows that.  If your policy does not spell out that you will not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, a manager might get the wrong idea, and think that this kind of discrimination is acceptable.  With a policy in place, your company is able to systematically train everyone, so that all decisions are in line with your workplace culture.
  1. LGBT consumers have $600 billion in purchasing power, and many people know which companies have policies that include their community, and which ones don’t.  Not only does expanding your non-discrimination policy help attract and retain loyal employees, but it also helps attract and retain loyal consumers.  In a world where 491 of the Fortune 500 companies have similar policies, smaller companies cannot afford to fall behind their competitors.
  1. It’s FREE!  It isn’t often a business has the chance to do something to attract employees and consumers that does not cost them a dime, but this is one of those times.  Changing your policy is a cost-effective way to bring your company in line with 21st century best practices, and remain as competitive as possible among existing and potential employees, as well as consumer markets.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What does “gender identity/expression” mean, and why is gender identity essential to non-discrimination policies?

Gender identity does not directly relate to the person’s sex, but rather indicates whether the person identifies as male or female.  Gender expression relates to a person’s external appearance, particularly the clothes he or she chooses to wear.

The inclusion of gender identity/expression language is vital for two reasons. First, it is necessary to cover transgender employees, who are often among the most discriminated-against Americans in the workplace. Second, including “gender identity/expression” is essential to fully protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and even heterosexual people who may not fit traditional gender norms.  Frequently, when lesbian, gay, or bisexual employees are fired, it isn’t necessarily because of the fact that they were lesbian or gay, but that their dress did not conform to traditional gender expression.

Including “gender identity/expression” alongside “sexual orientation,” as outlined in the model policy above, is the best way to strengthen language to protect LGBT employees.

Will this lead to an onslaught of lawsuits?

No. In states that have already enacted statutes prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, there is no onslaught of litigation. In fact, very few cases are filed. Three General Accounting Office (GAO) studies show that discrimination claims by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the states with nondiscrimination laws are a very small percentage of overall discrimination claims. According to a GAO report dated July 9, 2002, relatively few formal complaints of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were filed, either in absolute numbers or as a percentage of all employment discrimination complaints in the states. The GAO reported the percentage of overall claims which alleged discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity varied from state to state, ranging from 1.3 percent to 3.9 percent of all claims. State discrimination laws have not led to a flood of litigation, but have provided appropriate remedies for the modest number of cases of discrimination.

Would this policy require employers to provide health benefits to unmarried partners of employees?

No. Such policies can be tailored specifically to hiring, firing, promotion, and salary considerations, and would not automatically require health benefits to unmarried or same-sex partners.  However, this does not preclude any employer who chooses to provide benefits to unmarried partners from doing so.