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Role of I-O Science in Ensuring Protected LGBTQ Rights

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workers are protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This federal employment law bans discrimination in employment based on race, religion, national origin, or sex.

As a science that affects policies and practices within organizations, I-O psychology has long had a connection to this act and will continue to be instrumental as workplaces ensure these protected rights.

Several SIOP members recently shared their thoughts on the impact of this ruling and on the next steps for I-O science:

Given the considerable evidence that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community face discrimination in the workplace, the extension of civil rights protections to cover sexual orientation and identity was clearly long overdue. Nevertheless, history teaches that outlawing discrimination is only the first step of many toward equal opportunity. As I-O psychologists, we must study this phenomenon to shed greater light on how it occurs, trace it as it evolves from more overt to covert forms (given its newfound uniform illegality), and identify evidence-based means of curtailing it in organizational settings. To paraphrase Sun Tzu’s Art of War, we must truly get to know this form of discrimination if we are to succeed in defeating it.

- Derek R. Avery, C. T. Bauer Chair of Inclusive Leadership, Bauer College of Business, University of Houston; SIOP Diversity and Inclusion Officer

I am encouraged by the recent Supreme Court ruling protecting LGBTQ workers from employment discrimination. Basic civil rights to work free from discrimination should not be up for debate, and this ruling suggests that, in the area of employment, our country is moving in the right direction toward continued progress in this area. This ruling is not only beneficial to LGBTQ applicants and employees, but also to companies as it allows for an increase of talent within our companies. Research from our field has shown that antidiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ workers are effective at reducing discrimination. Scholars and practitioners in our field are well poised to help companies ensure compliance with this ruling through our expertise in areas such as reducing bias in testing, selection, and training. However, perhaps more exciting to me, is that I-O experts have the skills and opportunity to help companies track and mitigate subtler forms of bias and discrimination against LGBTQ employees, which can be just as harmful as the discrimination banned by the new court ruling, and we can also work with companies to develop policies that ensure inclusion of LGBTQ employees throughout the networks and ranks of companies.

- Enrica Ruggs, Assistant Professor of Management, Center for Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Director, University of Memphis

The Supreme Court's decision reflects the spirit of SIOP's policy statement and the work of D&I scholars and practitioners. I consider it a win for LGBTQ people and for employers who are working toward fair and inclusive organizations.

- Eden King, Associate Professor, Rice University

As work and organizational psychologists we are committed to advancing work policies that provide equal opportunity to all. The protection of gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination is long overdue. I-O science can play a role through promoting and supporting research that addresses the needs of the LGBT community, by educating managers and policy-makers, and by implementing evidence-based best equal opportunity practices within organizations.

- Tammy Allen, Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida

The really important thing to remember is that anti-discrimination is a far cry from true inclusion. This is evident in the continued mistreatment of people with identities and characteristics that have enjoyed federal protection from workplace discrimination for decades. We need to continue to do research and implement policies to make inclusion come as second nature and not assume that laws will fix everything. This is a huge accomplishment for us all, but we need to continue to strive toward allyship for one another.

- Larry Martinez, Assistant Professor, Portland State University

In 2012, the Society for Industrial and Organization Psychology adopted its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Employment Non-Discrimination Policy, which states in part that the organization will take a leadership role in promoting societal attitudes and behaviors that affirm the dignity and rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. SIOP is also committed to advocating efforts to ensure research on the issues of LGBTQ employees within organizational settings.

SIOP’s full Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Employment Non-Discrimination Policy is available on its About webpage.

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