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Business Ethics

8.3 Sexual Identification and Orientation

Business Ethics8.3 Sexual Identification and Orientation

Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Why Ethics Matter
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 Being a Professional of Integrity
    3. 1.2 Ethics and Profitability
    4. 1.3 Multiple versus Single Ethical Standards
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. Assessment Questions
    8. Endnotes
  3. 2 Ethics from Antiquity to the Present
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 The Concept of Ethical Business in Ancient Athens
    3. 2.2 Ethical Advice for Nobles and Civil Servants in Ancient China
    4. 2.3 Comparing the Virtue Ethics of East and West
    5. 2.4 Utilitarianism: The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number
    6. 2.5 Deontology: Ethics as Duty
    7. 2.6 A Theory of Justice
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. Assessment Questions
    11. Endnotes
  4. 3 Defining and Prioritizing Stakeholders
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 Adopting a Stakeholder Orientation
    3. 3.2 Weighing Stakeholder Claims
    4. 3.3 Ethical Decision-Making and Prioritizing Stakeholders
    5. 3.4 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Assessment Questions
    9. Endnotes
  5. 4 Three Special Stakeholders: Society, the Environment, and Government
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 Corporate Law and Corporate Responsibility
    3. 4.2 Sustainability: Business and the Environment
    4. 4.3 Government and the Private Sector
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. Assessment Questions
    8. Endnotes
  6. 5 The Impact of Culture and Time on Business Ethics
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 The Relationship between Business Ethics and Culture
    3. 5.2 Business Ethics over Time
    4. 5.3 The Influence of Geography and Religion
    5. 5.4 Are the Values Central to Business Ethics Universal?
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Assessment Questions
    9. Endnotes
  7. 6 What Employers Owe Employees
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 The Workplace Environment and Working Conditions
    3. 6.2 What Constitutes a Fair Wage?
    4. 6.3 An Organized Workforce
    5. 6.4 Privacy in the Workplace
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Assessment Questions
    9. Endnotes
  8. 7 What Employees Owe Employers
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Loyalty to the Company
    3. 7.2 Loyalty to the Brand and to Customers
    4. 7.3 Contributing to a Positive Work Atmosphere
    5. 7.4 Financial Integrity
    6. 7.5 Criticism of the Company and Whistleblowing
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Assessment Questions
    10. Endnotes
  9. 8 Recognizing and Respecting the Rights of All
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Diversity and Inclusion in the Workforce
    3. 8.2 Accommodating Different Abilities and Faiths
    4. 8.3 Sexual Identification and Orientation
    5. 8.4 Income Inequalities
    6. 8.5 Animal Rights and the Implications for Business
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Assessment Questions
    10. Endnotes
  10. 9 Professions under the Microscope
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Entrepreneurship and Start-Up Culture
    3. 9.2 The Influence of Advertising
    4. 9.3 The Insurance Industry
    5. 9.4 Ethical Issues in the Provision of Health Care
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Assessment Questions
    9. Endnotes
  11. 10 Changing Work Environments and Future Trends
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 More Telecommuting or Less?
    3. 10.2 Workplace Campuses
    4. 10.3 Alternatives to Traditional Patterns of Work
    5. 10.4 Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and the Workplace of the Future
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Assessment Questions
    9. Endnotes
  12. 11 Epilogue: Why Ethics Still Matter
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 Business Ethics in an Evolving Environment
    3. 11.2 Committing to an Ethical View
    4. 11.3 Becoming an Ethical Professional
    5. 11.4 Making a Difference in the Business World
    6. Endnotes
  13. A | The Lives of Ethical Philosophers
  14. B | Profiles in Business Ethics: Contemporary Thought Leaders
  15. C | A Succinct Theory of Business Ethics
  16. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
  17. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain how sexual identification and orientation are protected by law
  • Discuss the ethical issues raised in the workplace by differences in sexual identification and orientation

As society expands its understanding and appreciation of sexual orientation and identity, companies and managers must adopt a more inclusive perspective that keeps pace with evolving norms. Successful managers are those who willing to create a more welcoming work environment for all employees, given the wide array of sexual orientations and identities evident today.

Legal Protections

Workplace discrimination in this area means treating someone differently solely because of his or her sexual identification or sexual orientation, which can include, but is not limited to, identification as gay or lesbian (homosexual), bisexual, transsexual, or straight (heterosexual). Discrimination may also be based on an individual’s association with someone of a different sexual orientation. Forms that such discrimination may take in the workplace include denial of opportunities, termination, and sexual assault, as well as the use of offensive terms, stereotyping, and other harassment.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor (2013) that Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (which had restricted the federal interpretations of “marriage” and “spouse” to opposite-sex unions) was unconstitutional, and guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015),24 marital status has little or no direct applicability to the circumstances of someone’s employment. In terms of legal protections at work, the LGBTQ community had been at a disadvantage because Title VII of the CRA was not interpreted to address sexual orientation and federal law did not prohibit discrimination based on this characteristic. In the 2020 Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, the Court held that discrimination based on "sex" includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

A map of the United States is titled “States the Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination.” The states are colored in to show states that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in public and private workplaces. States that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in both private and public workplaces are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. States that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in public workplaces are Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, and Pennsylvania.
Figure 8.7 In addition to federal laws, many states have laws that provide protections and guarantees to LGBTQ people. (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

While the 2020 Supreme Court decision extended protection in terms of employment considerations, discrimination in other forms remains. For example, a proposed law named the Equality Act is a federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that would provide protections for LGBTQ individuals in employment, housing, credit, and education. But unless and until it passes, it remains up to the business community to provide protections consistent with those provided under federal law for other employees or applicants.

Ethical Considerations

In the absence of a specific law, LGBTQ issues present a unique opportunity for ethical leadership. Many companies choose to do the ethically and socially responsible thing and treat all workers equally, for example, by extending the same benefits to same-sex partners that they extend to opposite-sex spouses. Ethical leaders are also willing to listen and be considerate when dealing with employees who may still be coming to an understanding of their sexual identification.

Financial and performance-related considerations come into play as well. Denver Investments recently analyzed the stock performance of companies before and after their adoption of LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies.25 The number of companies outperforming their peers in various industries increased after companies adopted LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies. Once again, being ethical does not mean losing money or performing poorly.

In fact, states that have passed legislation considered anti-LGBTQ by the wider U.S. community, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana or North Carolina’s H.B. 2, the infamous “bathroom bill” that would require transgender individuals to use the restroom corresponding with their birth certificate, have experienced significant economic pushback. These states have seen statewide and targeted boycotts by consumers, major corporations, national organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and even other cities and states.26 In 2016, in response to H.B. 2, nearly seventy large U.S. companies, including American Airlines, Apple, DuPont, General Electric, IBM, Morgan Stanley, and Wal-Mart, signed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in opposition to the unpopular North Carolina bill.27 In 2017, the North Carolina legislature replaced the law, and a 2019 court settlement substantially altered it; however, the remaining North Carolina law limits local municipalities' protections for LGBTQ people. Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act evoked a similar backlash in 2015 and public criticism from U.S. businesses.

To assess LGBTQ equality policies at a corporate level, the Human Rights Campaign foundation publishes an annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI) of approximately one thousand large U.S. companies and scores each on a scale of 0 to 100 on the basis of how LGBTQ-friendly its benefits and employment policies are (Figure 8.8). More than six hundred companies recently earned a perfect score in the 2018 CEI, including such household names as AT&T, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Gap Inc., General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, United Parcel Service, and Xerox.28

This chart is a bar chart titled “States with the Most Corporate Equality Index (CEI) Companies.” The bars show the percentage of companies scoring 100 within the states listed. States are listed along the left side and the bars extend out to the right. From top to bottom, the chart shows Maryland with 67 percent, Massachusetts with 65 percent, Nevada with 57 percent, Minnesota with 55 percent, New York with 53 percent, Washington with 53 percent, Illinois with 51 percent, California with 49 percent, Connecticut with 43 percent, and Kentucky with 43 percent.
Figure 8.8 The Human Rights Campaign Foundation publishes an annual Corporate Equality Index to assess the LGBTQ equality policies of major U.S. corporations. A perfect score on the index is 100. These are the ten states with the highest percentages of “100 score” companies as of 2014–2015. (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

Another organization tracking LGBTQ equality and inclusion in the workplace is the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which issues third-party certification for businesses that are majority-owned by LGBT individuals. There are currently more than one thousand LGBT-certified business enterprises across the country, although California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Georgia account for approximately 50 percent of them. Although these are all top-ranked states for new business startups in general, they are also home to multiple Fortune 500 companies whose diversity programs encourage LGBT-certified businesses to become part of their supply chains. Examples of large LGBT-friendly companies with headquarters in these states are American Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, SunTrust Bank, and Pacific Gas & Electric.

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