Battle for tolerance amid continued homophobic slurs at work

by Stephanie Zillman22 Nov 2012

A former Health Care New Zealand worker said that he was left with no choice but to resign after his employer did not adequately support him following homophobic slurs made by a colleague.

Grant White resigned from his role earlier this year after confiding in a colleague that he was gay. According to White, the colleague damaged relationships he had with clients by saying he was a “dirty homosexual”.  Following the reactions by some clients, many of whom were mentally ill, White took his complaint to the district manager and lodged a complaint against his colleague – but when no action was taken, he resigned from his position there.

The action is now being handled by the NZ Employment Relations Authority – yet the case represents a relatable scenario for Australian employers and shines the spotlight on the handling of complaints related to tolerance and sexual orientation.

Championing workplace tolerance of sexual orientation remains a battleground for HR. While companies may routinely assure anyone who asks that they are inclusive employers, the time to walk the talk has come. Offering quality workplace diversity practices can be a key point of difference for employers looking to make a name for themselves in the diversity space.

According to the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA), the following key points of research collated by Stonewall, a UK lesbian, gay and bi-sexual charity, shows the business case behind why organisations should be public in their support for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans-gender) communities:
Almost three quarters of gay, and more than 2 in 5 straight consumers are less likely to buy products from companies perceived to hold negative views of lesbians and gay men.

  • In Australia gay and lesbian households control an estimated annual disposable income of $10bn.
  • Recent Australian research has demonstrated that almost 2 in 5 of lesbian and gay staff facing discrimination will change careers if the discrimination continues. Being positive towards gay recruits is a litmus test for inclusive and effective recruitment generally.
  • More than one third of lesbian and gay staff conceal their sexual orientation from their employers and co-workers. This creates stress and tension for many staff themselves. But it also has consequences for employers too. All people perform better when they can be themselves, and this truth applies in particular to LGBT staff.
  • Research from the US has found that employees who felt able to be ‘out’ as gay in safe environments earn 50% more than their ‘closeted peers’. Conversely, more than half of gay employees facing discrimination report direct negative work impact.
  • According to research undertaken by the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, 53% of participants had been the subject of harassment or discrimination in their current employment.


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