5 Ways Gannett Fleming Champions LGBTQ+ Pride Year-round
Why is it important for employers to openly support LGBTQ+ equality in their workforces?
Depending upon which study you read, anywhere from 25–50% of LGBTQ+ employees don’t feel comfortable being out professionally. This is due to many factors, such as fear of what their coworkers will think, being denied advancement opportunities, or losing their jobs entirely. And while the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 known as Title VII protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, gaps still exist. For instance, it doesn’t address bathroom access for transgender people, and there is a gray area concerning whether employers can terminate an LGBTQ+ person’s employment for religious reasons. Therefore, it’s crucial for employers to take the lead and make a clear stand in support of their LGBTQ+ employees’ rights.
How does Gannett Fleming champion LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace?
Through experience, we have found that embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives has not only improved employee morale and increased employee acquisition and retention, but it has also played an important role in helping us hit financial goals and innovate to create competitive advantages. Recognizing the key role that LGBTQ+ employees play in shaping Gannett Fleming’s culture and delivering excellence as promised to our clients, we are actively putting in the work to make sure our policies, practices, and workplaces provide a sense of belonging, safety, and respect. We recognize this is important work that will be ongoing, and outlined below are a few examples of how we champion LGBTQ+ rights.
1. PROVIDING EQUITABLE EMPLOYEE HEALTHCARE AND LEAVE BENEFITS
Access to equitable employee benefits is one of the most cited areas of discrimination for LGBTQ+ employees. At Gannett Fleming, we feel it’s vital that all of our employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have access to the benefits they need to holistically take care of themselves and their families. That’s why we’re committed to offering the following:
- Our health insurance policy’s definition of “spouse” includes same-sex spouses, and the same documentation is required for enrollment of same and different-sex spouses.
- Our healthcare benefits are available for domestic partners.
- We offer an FMLA-equivalent benefit that allows employees to take family and medical leave to care for domestic partners as well as the children of a domestic partner, regardless of biological or adoptive status.
- Our bereavement leave policy includes the event of the death of a domestic partner or the partner’s immediate family.
We are also an active partner with our health insurance representatives to ensure our policies and coverage are inclusive. For example, our standard health plans provide coverage for the healthcare needs of transgender individuals, including routine, emergent, or urgent care, as well as services related to sex affirmation or gender reassignment in accordance with the applicable medical policy. Moreover, we do not have explicit exclusions in our benefit contracts that specifically preclude such treatment.
2. ENFORCING NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICIES ACROSS THE FIRM AND PROVIDING UNCONSCIOUS BIAS TRAINING.
We provide a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity and are free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Recognizing that employees are the key to our success, we have a clear non-discrimination policy to protect our LGBTQ+ employees:
We do not engage in or tolerate unlawful discrimination, including harassment or retaliation, against any employee, applicant for employment, intern (whether paid or unpaid), independent contractor, or any other covered person because of sex, gender, sexual orientation (including actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality), gender identity or expression (including status as a transgender individual), marital status, familial status, domestic partner, or civil union status. This commitment extends to recruiting and hiring, training, promotion, compensation, benefits, transfer, and layoff or termination.
Additionally, we introduced mandatory unconscious bias training in 2020 for all employees to learn about the different types of bias and how bias can affect decision making at work and beyond. Included in this two-part training is information related to understanding gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
3. EMPOWERING LGBTQ+ EMPLOYEES TO THRIVE IN THEIR CAREERS.
We believe that employee resource groups (ERGs), which are voluntary and employee-led, are immensely powerful tools to support and guide our inclusion initiatives. Specifically, our ERGs provide a platform for our diverse groups to be heard, valued, and engaged and also help us as a firm to be thought leaders in diverse areas and more understanding of our clients’ needs.
During Pride Month 2020, our CEO and chairman, Bob Scaer, encouraged the formation of an LGBTQ+ ERG at Gannett Fleming. The employee response was overwhelmingly positive, and LGBTQ+ of Gannett Fleming celebrated its official launch during Pride Month 2021. The ERG not only provides visibility and a platform for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies, but it’s empowering employees to bring their full selves to work and feel safe doing so. Additionally, the ERG is focused on providing helpful resources and training to our colleagues on topics such as preferred pronouns while also taking a lead in supporting charities and organizations that promote LGBTQ+ rights. The group will also help guide policies and change as Gannett Fleming continues to progress.
Additionally, we are always looking for ways to be more mindful in recruiting and promoting diverse individuals. In particular, having visibility in management and leadership roles is a focus, and we continue to be involved in our communities to help future leaders through scholarships and STEM education and opportunities for minority groups.
4. USING GENDER-NEUTRAL AND DEGENDERED LANGUAGE.
Simply put, words have power. As our firm has become more inclusive, the language we use in everything from our job postings and press releases to our internal emails and policies has continuously evolved.
One important transformation involves adopting the use of gender-neutral (using they/them instead of she/he) and degendered language (eliminating references such as “ladies and gentlemen,” “guys,” and “ladies” for language like “folks,” “everyone,” “team,” and “friends.”). While updating our language is a work in progress across the firm, our employees have identified it as being a particularly helpful change.
5. ENCOURAGING EMPLOYEE FEEDBACK.
At Gannett Fleming, we refer to our company culture as our “special sauce.” This special sauce is truly what makes our firm great and one of the reasons we’ve been successful for more than 100 years; it’s built upon the connections of our employees, their talents, and their unique perspectives. The wonderful thing about being a firm that embraces DEI is that we learn and change as our workforce becomes more diverse, bringing new ideas, philosophies, and worldviews to the table. We are committed to providing multiple forums for employee feedback, whether that’s through our ERGs, employee relations department, direct access to our senior leadership, or through our individual practices.