Can an Employer Invite Its Employees to Self-Identify Their LGBTQIA+ Status?

I have occasionally received the question of whether it is acceptable to invite employees to self-identify their LGBTQIA+ status or sexual orientation. The answer to this question is yes!

Why would an employer want to invite employees to self-identify their LGBTQIA+ status?

Although some employees may feel uncomfortable disclosing their LGBTQIA+ status (just as some may be uncomfortable disclosing disability status, veteran status, gender, or racial identity), employee self-identification provides an opportunity to bring cultural and social awareness to an organization. This can definitely impact the company’s initiatives and investments related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). When organizations capture an employee’s diversity information, it provides the employee an opportunity to communicate where barriers may exist within policies and processes, so employers can address areas that need improvement! When you know better you do better!

My past experiences with inviting employees to self-identify have been very well-received. Employees expressed their appreciation for being invited and considered it an opportunity to be counted and have their ideas heard!

Employee self-identification may also provide organizations with information that can be leveraged and help them allocate resources and support to candidates who fall into an underrepresented category. The information can impact access to benefits, promotions, training, and mentorship. Leaders can also use the data to help launch or expand DE&I initiatives that in turn help enhance employee engagement and aid in hiring and retention efforts.

Although employers are not required to collect data on the LGBTQIA+ members of their workforce, those that do can leverage data to help implement initiatives that will benefit all aspects of the organization, and they can measure the success of their efforts.

What can I do to encourage employees to self-identify?

When asking employees to self-identify, an employer may wish to proactively communicate the purpose for the request and emphasize the confidentiality of the responses to help mitigate the discomfort or isolation that employees may feel. Note that the information sought is strictly voluntary. Answering employee “why’s” and “how’s” upfront will help drive trust and in turn positive employee participation. Empower leaders to champion and communicate the organization's DE&I objectives. Employees appreciate employers that take a sincere interest in them and want to improve the workplace!

If you want to know more about employee LGBTQIA+ self-identification or have other HR-related questions, we’d love to help! Give us a call or send an e-mail. We’re also available by chat. It’s one of the most valued benefits of SHRM membership!

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