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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Ernst & Young Releases LGBT Report

In this report, Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four professional services firms, and, according to this report, the first to receive 100% on the Corporate Equality Index, discusses practices that enable LGBT Policies to move into the corporate life of the firm. What makes it particularly interesting, from my point of view, is that its suggestions were developed from a roundtable discussion from companies that have leading edge policies on gender identity, including Citigroup, JPMorganChase, Prudential and Viacom, among others, as well as the nonprofits Human Rights Campaign, and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. Thus, the information comes from people who understand that LGBT inclusion means more than L & G inclusion, with T added as an afterthought.

The report advocates ten principles, but I want to concentrate on the first one mentioned: the idea that senior management must be involved. It has been my experience as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies that, where the HR person who is my contact does not have the support of higher-ups, the going is extremely difficult. There is insufficient support for the major policy documentation required, there is insufficient support for training the people that need to learn about the changes, and obstacles that can easily be overcome are suddenly insurmountable. One way to address this issue is, as the report suggests, to train senior management first, before anyone else.

This idea of training senior managers first usually seems backwards to my HR contacts, who are concerned about training co-workers of a person in gender transition. But how can decisions be made about how that training is to proceed in regard to the hard questions, say, how shower rooms in the company gym will be treated, or proper corrective action for religious coworkers who refuse to call a transgender employee by their new name and pronoun? (And there are plenty more questions like that, trust me.) And how are other HR people and managers who may be faced with these issues in the future to learn if they are left in the dark about the policy? If it's one person's baby, and that person leaves the job - what happens to the institutional memory

Where senior management is behind HR on this, the requisite amount of time and effort is devoted and these questions are addressed properly. The right people get trained. The institutional memory is solid. Where senior management does not understand the issues, then all this is ignored -- until there is a grievance.

The rest of the report's suggestions are useful as well, but without learning there can be no practice.

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