Finding a job in a fair workplace in hard times

Posted on 27 Mar 2009 at 12:47am
By Cece Cox Special Contributor

Resource Center of Dallas working with GLBT Chamber to offer job fair featuring employers who value diversity in the workplace

Imagine working at a job for six years with exceptional performance reviews. A new boss comes in, and in the space of three weeks you lose your job — because you are gay.

It happens every day, in just about every industry you can think of — because it’s all perfectly legal.

This is what happened to one of my colleagues at Resource Center of Dallas at a previous employer. Sadly, it could happen to just about any member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community.

We have no federal protections, unlike other protected classes such as race, gender, disability, religion, country of origin and age. On top of that, Texas does not have any state protections for its GLBT residents, although there are efforts in Austin to change that. Except for a few federal exceptions, you can be harassed at work or fired just for whom you love. Although there are employers who offer nondiscrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity, there’s sometimes a disconnect between what’s on paper and what actually happens in the workplace.

In a 2007 survey conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law, between 1985 and 1995 as many as 68 percent of LGB employees reported employment discrimination at some point in their working lives. More than four out of 10 reported workplace discrimination ranging from harassment in the workplace, verbal or physical assaults, vandalism of property to denial of employment or termination.

The numbers are equally shocking for the transgender community. The same survey showed one out of two transgender individuals were either fired or denied employment based on their gender identity.

On top of all this, the federal benefits system is unjust. We pay the same taxes as everyone, but GLBT citizens aren’t entitled to the 1,138 federal benefits given to other Americans. Those benefits include Social Security survivor benefits and joint income tax filing.

Finally, the workforce itself is going through tremendous change. Every 10 minutes, a member of the "baby boomer" generation is retiring, according to Fortune Magazine. Two years from now two out of five members of the workforce will either be retired or eligible to do so.

That’s why diversity and inclusion are important in the 21st-century global workplace. When the best and brightest employees enjoy working for places where they feel secure, this translates into increased recruitment and retention rates. For GLBT employees, inclusion translates into fairness at work.

It’s not special rights, as some would claim. All we want is a level playing field.

This is why Resource Center of Dallas established a GLBT Job Expo several years ago, in cojunction with the North Texas GLBT Chamber. We wanted to serve as a bridge between GLBT jobseekers and those companies which not only embrace diversity and inclusion, they make it part of their workplace culture.

We have more than two dozen employers at this year’s Job Expo, from banking and insurance to education and government. All of them are seeking the best and brightest employees to join their workforce.

This year’s expo will also include a series of classes to help GLBT jobseekers. Do you need to brush up your interviewing skills? Is your resume as effective as it could be? Are you using your social networks to network about job openings? How do you stay motivated in my job search when every day you hear bad news about the economy? How can you start your own job and be your own boss?

We have classes that can help you find the answers to all those questions.

Yes, the economy is challenging, which makes it critically important that employers hire the best possible candidates. Their presence at the GLBT Job Expo sends a strong signal that they value and appreciate diversity in the workplace. Now, more than ever, we can help connect jobseekers with employers. Join us!

The 2009 GLBT Job Expo will be held Wednesday, April 1, at the Fincher Building of SMU’s Cox School of Business, 6212 Bishop Blvd., from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Free parking will be available for expo attendees along Bishop Boulevard.

It will be followed by a GLBT Chamber mixer at SMU’s Collins Executive Education Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Cece Cox is associate executive director GLBT community services at the Resource Center of Dallas.

E-mail ccox@rcdallas.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 27, 2009.

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