Three of the participants I interviewed expressed that Human Resources (HR) departments could make a big positive impact on Queer people in the workplace. They all expressed that they felt safer in avoiding workplace discrimination when there was an HR department that had their back.
Robyn had made a complaint about homophobia to their HR department, who quickly resolved the matter:
”There was a guy in the cubical next to me who was constantly making homophobic remarks. Eventually I took the step, which I don’t know if it was very brave, but it felt very brave to me. I had to screw up my courage and all this, but I went to HR and said, ”the guy next to me keeps making homophobic remarks, as somebody who has a boyfriend”, and they said ”right, we will have a word with him” and he didn’t do it anymore. That was a pretty scary thing to do…the fact that HR were actually going to fight my corner meant a lot to me.”– Robyn (Programmer in multiple fields)
Tyler never needed to make a complaint but felt safer knowing that it was an option:
”Knowing that there is an HR department that is separate from people that you work with, that the company has processes that they have to go through if they want to fire someone, it protects you from discrimination to an extent. If the creepy guy at work got too creepy I could have gone to HR.”-Tyler (Software tools developer)
Henry’s current workplace does not have a HR department and he feels his currently transphobic office would be better if there was one:
”There have been a couple of times when transphobic jokes have happened…There isn’t a HR department or anything and I think people are just not as professional as they might be in other places.”-Henry (Application developer)
Two of the remaining participants had never worked at a company large enough to have an HR department and the one remaining participant mentioned her HR department in a neutral light. We can conclude that for our participants, working at companies which were large enough to have HR departments is a powerful tool for fighting homophobia and transphobia. This fits with the findings of a US study by Day and Schoenrade (2000), which concludes that gay and lesbian employees are much happier when anti-discrimination policies (enacted through HR) were in place.
Find out about why Queers find it hard to be ‘professional’, about Queer technologies, working from home, coming out, or personal lives.