The purpose of this article is to inform you, a proud member of the LGBT+ community about the seven questions to ask potential employers. Members of the LGBT community frequently face discrimination and harassment; with this guide’s help, you will be prepared to ask your future employer questions that will help you discern if you will be working in a safe and welcoming environment.
These questions should be used as conversation starters between you and your future employer. You will learn as much by your employer’s comfort level in discussing these topics as by the answers themselves, so take note.
Does your future employer seem uncomfortable, angry, or threatened by these questions, or does the employer seem relaxed, welcoming, and comfortable responding to you? Everyone needs a work place where they feel accepted and safe; this guide will help you find that place!
1. Does Your Business Have Nondiscrimination Policies for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation?
Nondiscrimination policies have been becoming more comprehensive as society becomes more aware; sadly, not all businesses have made the shift to include protection for LGBT individuals. Ask your future employer about what is specifically included in the nondiscrimination policy.
If gender identity and sexual orientation are not included, tread carefully: this employer may have the power to fire LGBT employees without fear of legal ramifications. If sexual orientation and gender identity ARE included, read the policy carefully to ensure you will be fully protected. If you are unsure what a good nondiscrimination policy looks like, you can find one at Lambdalegal.org.
2. What Steps Have You Taken to Create a Safe Space for Your Employees?
Not only will this question indicate whether management is responsive to the needs of employees, the response to this question will inform you if your future boss has done their research on diversity.
Safe spaces generally include trainings on diversity and nondiscriminatory policies and/or positive messages throughout the workplace (such as magnets, posters, or stickers). If a safe space is not currently available, you might ask what if they would be willing to initiate one.
3. Will I Encounter Any Challenges If I Transition during My Time Working Here?
This is a loaded, but essential question if you plan to transition during the time of your employment. Even if you will not be undergoing hormonal or surgical changes, you may still wish to present as your desired gender through dress, appearance, and name. Asking your employer up-front if you will be safe from discrimination or harassment during this transition will ease the experience for you.
4. How Inclusive Is the Language Used in the Workplace (Both Verbal and What Is in Handbooks, Manuals, Etc.)?
Consider whether your future employer uses hetero-normative language, or even language that is sexist or bigoted. If the employer regularly uses language that makes you uncomfortable, run!
If the employer is inclusive and adaptable, check whether the handbooks, policies, and manuals follow this example. If not, check if your employer would be willing to revise documents to promote diversity.
5. Will I Be Discriminated against or Harassed Based on My Appearance?
This is actually a great question for anybody to ask a future employer, but is especially pertinent in marginalized populations. If your future employer cannot give a confident answer or absolutely guarantee your safety and peace of mind, they may be in violation of anti-discrimination laws in your state.
6. If Uniforms Are Involved, How Gendered Are They?
Certain job positions (e.g., waiters and waitresses, stewards and stewardesses, etc.) have very specific dress codes that must be followed. If this dress code is completely inflexible, does not align with your preferred gender, or is revealing or otherwise highlighting of gender, it is your right to be aware of this before taking the job. Talk to your future employer about the rigidity of uniforms to determine if this is an appropriate fit for you.
7. What Community Causes Does Your Business Support?
This questions can shed light on where the company focuses its time and money. Does the business donate to a particular fund or cause, or are employees regularly volunteering at events? Especially if your community has a large LGBT population, it is relevant for you to know how your future business supports the community.
If LGBT causes are not included, this is not necessarily a red flag. However, if the business regularly supports companies that have been known to discriminate against LGBT members, that should be an indication of how you might be treated working in that environment.
After your future employer has answered the questions that are most important to you from this list, determine how the interaction felt to you. Did you find yourself becoming uncomfortable or feeling attacked? Did your employer make any casual remarks that hint at underlying homophobia or sexism?
Can you envision yourself interacting with this individual on a daily basis? And do you feel these conversations can happen regularly and openly in the workplace? If you felt comfortable, safe, and relaxed during this process, great! You just might have found your new workplace home. Enjoy!