Being Gay At Work

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For those of you who don’t know this, being gay at work can be an occupational hazard.

From soft bigotry in the hiring process to outright hostility towards individual colleagues, I’ve dealt with workplace incivility towards gay people on a consistent basis since 1995. For chrissake, I was dealing with issues of bullying and insensitivity until the day I walked out the door of my last HR job. I can’t tell you how many wasted hours were spent counseling employees who thought it was okay to make snide comments. I can’t tell you how many leaders I’ve worked with who thought it was okay to dole out overtime and project assignments based on perceived notions of sexual preferences.

So when I tell you that we need ENDA — the federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act — I mean that we need it yesterday. According to Workforce Magazine, the federal act would prevent discrimination and would cover hiring, firing, promotion or compensation decisions, according to the gay advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign.

Now some small business owners and conservative Christians feel that the government has no right to dictate the rules of employment. Those people are so wrong that it hurts my face. Unchecked power at any level is dangerous, and if companies can discriminate against one group (the gays), they will find a way to continue discriminating against other groups (women, African Americans, Christians) in soft, subtle, and dangerous ways.

I am a capitalist. I believe in personal freedom. You want to discriminate against someone in the privacy of your home? Go for it. But the minute you use commerce as a weapon to hurt and exclude a group of citizens, your actions are part of a broader public policy debate about money and power. And if ENDA passes, it will be both immoral and illegal to inject sexual orientation into the employer/employee covenant.

Dare we dream, people. Dare we freakin’ dream.

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