Monday, June 29, 2015

7 Ways Marriage Equality Can Change Your Workplace


Policies, Procedures, and Prejudice

As a new week begins, workers in the largest economy on earth will have the right to be married to one person regardless of where they live. More than 1,000 benefits are tied to marriage so more people may have the potential to increase their well-being. Problem policies, procedures, and prejudices are likely to persist for many.

1. Changing forms is no big deal when it comes to the basics unless you use software based forms permitting only restrictive entry parameters. Of course, those problems will soon be overcome.  Businesses and schools that operate in multiple states can simplify their employment forms and all the benefits accorded married employees.

2. Policies that protect employment status can take longer to revise. In the U.S. people will be married or single when it comes to many benefits but there are those in transition. Converting from civil unions to marriage may take time. But the greater challenge will be to trust an employer. Many states do not protect sexual minorities from discrimination. Firing a sexual minority could be seen as a badge of honor by those quick to assert their rights. The reactions of many politicians and Christians in the last few days made it abundantly clear they do not like the change in marriage rights granted by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Of course, large companies will face social retribution if they practice discrimination but smaller firms may not hesitate—especially in conservative enclaves.

3. Prejudices are slow to change. Negative attitudes toward ethnic minorities last for centuries despite changes in laws. Women continue to struggle for equal pay. Coming out of the sexual closet as married, garners benefits. Coming out is still risky when a substantial percentage of the U.S. population does not support same-sex marriage.

4. Party on? Showers are common for workers getting married or having children. It’s fun to celebrate events—except for some. Things will change in time. People are creative and most people want to be nice and get along. But it will take some thought. When it comes to social skills, many folks are clueless—perverse without a purpose.

5. Religious organizations won’t change anytime soon. Just take a look online at how many people of color head a U.S. church or religious organization. Churches are largely segregated in the U.S. Take a look at women for a second example. Even those groups that changed their policies to welcome women as equal to men in leadership roles have few women in high leadership positions. Religious organizations and schools are free to conserve their traditions. Think exemptions. Think integrated and segregated congregations and schools.

6. Will the Hobby Lobby factor limit change? I wonder how many businesses might consider becoming religious so they can maintain policies based on religious convictions. SCOTUS found that Hobby Lobby was able to maintain a contraception policy based on the religious convictions of its owners. SCOTUS blog.

7. Sexual harassment programs ought to include same-sex scenarios. The few I have seen over the years were heterosexist. Schools and work places need to be safe from sexual harassment. Women are not safe in the military or on U.S. campuses. How will sexual minorities be safe?

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