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Crafting an Effective DEI Policy for LGBTQIA+ Employees: A Guide for In-House Counsel

June 20, 2024 (4 min read)
A group of office workers celebrate Pride Month with rainbow flags

The arrival of Pride Month in June is an annual reminder of the importance of workforce diversity and creating a safe place for people of all backgrounds to contribute to the success of their organizations. HR experts suggest that this year is especially important for employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQIA+).

“As we celebrate Pride Month in June 2024, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace stands at an inflection point,” writes Veronica Calderon, chief inclusion, belonging and equity officer at DeVry University. “Organizations who remain committed to DEI values are doubling down on their efforts, while those who were merely performative have pulled the plug. The divide has never been clearer, however, the proven business case for DEI calls for sustained commitment.”

Unfortunately, a study by The Human Rights Campaign found that 26% of LGBTQ+ workers and 36% of transgender and nonbinary workers have searched for a new job due to an unaccepting environment, and that 37% of LGBTQ+ workers have actually left a job for that reason. There is clearly more work to be done.

6 Essential Components for an Effective DEI Policy

Whether you have a corporate DEI policy that has gathered some dust on the shelf in recent years or have not yet gotten around to creating one at all, now is a good time for in-house counsel to make sure they have in place a sound organizational policy that reflects the company’s commitment to creating a safe environment for diverse teams. Moreover, as the chief legal officers of the company, the in-house legal department is tasked with fulfilling this mission in a way that is both efficient and within the proper bounds of employment law.

Below are six key components of a DE&I policy to consider when crafting a policy for your organization that articulates the company’s dedication to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace:

  1. Statement of Commitment

Clearly establish that the company is committed to maintaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment that promotes fairness and values each employee’s unique contribution to the workplace. Make it clear that you believe in treating all employees with respect. This declaration can help your company recruit and retain employees and attract clients and customers.

  1. Celebration of Differences

All employees have unique experiences and backgrounds, so create a policy that celebrates their differences with respect to characteristics such as: race; color; religion or creed; age; sex; gender; sexual preference or identity; physical or mental disability; genetic history; national origin or ancestry; ethnicity; citizenship status; military or veteran status; economic background; family status; and political beliefs.

  1. DEI Initiatives

Include a specific list of your company’s DEI initiatives to illustrate steps you are taking to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce. Possible examples might include training and mentorship programs to support career development of all employees, workplace affinity groups, flexible work schedules, community outreach programs and analyzing compensation practices to ensure equity in employee pay.

  1. Equal Employment Opportunity Policies

Reaffirm the company’s commitment to complying with all applicable federal, state and local laws related to anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation. State clearly that it is the company’s policy to provide equal employment opportunities to all employees, job applicants and other individuals without regard to unlawful considerations of all classifications (e.g., race, color, religion or creed, gender, etc.) protected by applicable governing laws.

  1. Scope of DEI Initiatives

Clarify that your commitment to DEI applies not only to hiring, promotion and transfer decisions, but to all aspects of the workplace. For example, employees should understand that the company’s commitment to DEI extends to training and mentorship opportunities, company events and social gatherings (including holiday parties), and all other aspects of the workplace.

  1. Complaints

Be sure to include a provision explaining that employees can report any conduct that conflicts with the company’s commitment to DEI to their supervisor, any member of the corporate management team, or the Human Resources department. Make it clear that employees can also raise allegations of improper conduct through a defined company complaint procedure, then direct employees to a resource they can access for more information on filing complaints.

Practical Resources for In-House Legal Teams to Develop DEI Policies

In-house legal teams need access to practical resources that can equip them with information and tools for developing sound DEI policies and navigating the sensitive employment law issues that inevitably arise.

LexisNexis offers a wide range of AI-powered legal solutions and guidance for in-house counsel teams advising on ESG and DEI strategies. Here are a few that might prove useful.

  • The Practical Guidance Workplace Diversity, LGBTQ, and Racial and Social Justice Resource Kit from LexisNexis® offers critical resources to provide corporate legal professionals with guidance regarding workplace diversity programs, including content related to DEI policies, affirmative action plans, workplace affinity groups and major LGBTQ employment law issues.
  • The Law360® Employment Authority EEOC Litigation Tracker features an interactive map that allows users to quickly observe how much litigation is in progress in each state and to filter by type of litigation (e.g., age discrimination, retaliation, disability, etc.).
  • The Law360 Employment Authority CROWN Act Tracker enables in-house teams to monitor the proliferation of state laws prohibiting race-based hair discrimination in workplaces.

These resources are accessible to in-house legal teams via Lexis+ General Counsel Suite and Law360 tools. Lexis+ GC Suite provides in-house counsel with a vast collection of legal and practice resources, along with business and legal news.

Get a 7-day free trial of Lexis+ GC Suite.