Sexual orientation – the last ‘acceptable’ bias

The business case for diversity states that inclusive workplaces attract a wider and stronger range of job candidates, allowing organizations to connect with a diverse customer base. But gay and lesbian employees are often left out of the equation. In many workplaces, gay and lesbian employees constitute an invisible group, more comfortable staying in the closet than fully joining the work community. Discrimination is illegal, but prejudices remain.
By Lynne Sullivan
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/04/2005

Some 12 years ago I wrote an article for this publication stating that it was high time that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was banned.

In the intervening years this has happened in all Canadian jurisdictions. While Alberta didn’t actually amend its human rights legislation, it did accept the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Vriend decision. The court found that an Alberta teacher, who was fired because — and only because — he was gay, was a victim of discrimination.

Gay and lesbian Canadians have come a long way in the law. But have they come a long way in the workplace? Sadly, not as far as they need to in order to enjoy equal rights. Why do I say this? Consider the following real life anecdotes and experiences I have encountered in the course of my work: