Are There Risks to Being Out at Work?

This week we’re continuing our discussion of being out at the office with a look at the risks involved. Assessing your work environment is actually about taking a realistic look at yourself.

How Much Protection do You Have?

As I mentioned in my post about coming out at work it’s critically important to understand your rights. There are some countries where protections against discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity are extended federally. 

In other places rights are determined at a state or provincial level. In some, it can be a combination of both. There are also some unions, or companies, that may offer protection beyond what is set out in the law.

Sadly, there are places where there are discriminatory laws in place that may lead to arrest, jail time, or even execution. It is never worth coming out at work in these situations. You have no protections and your employer may be required to report you. I applaud you if you want to fight for your rights, but the office is not the right place to start.

Could it be In Your Head?

Before taking action it’s important for you to make sure you are actually being discriminated against. Discrimination is difficult to prove. Without a solid understanding of what’s really going on, you won’t get anywhere trying to address it. 

If you feel you’ve been passed over for a promotion or for increased responsibility make sure you’re qualified. We so often have skewed views of ourselves and may feel we’re more capable than our peers when we really aren’t. I’m only suggesting that you need to be realistic about your situation or abilities. Do some soul-searching and if you’re still sure you’re being treated unfairly then it’s time to take action. 

Mechanisms for Legal Action

Once you understand your rights, it’s equally important to understand how those right can be enforced. Legal protections do not guarantee a queer-friendly environment. What hoops will you have to jump through if you encounter issues after you come out? How realistic would it be for you to remain in your current job if you took that action?

It can be very difficult to have rights enforced. That might leave you in the challenging position of being forced to defend yourself in an even more toxic work environment. It’s another thing to consider before you take action. 

Your best bet is likely to pursue a legal remedy against your current employer while looking for another job. Regardless of the outcome, the work environment you’re in will likely remain difficult for you. 

Get Out of a Toxic Environment

Once you recognize that your work environment isn’t a fit for you consider the implications of remaining in the closet. It will certainly impact your happiness and fulfillment on the job. If you’re with the organization long enough people will likely figure out your truth leading to the very consequences you’re fearing. 

It takes courage to push for systemic change. It’s an honorable, and powerful, thing to do. While you may have some chance of success you may end up in an environment that’s even more hostile. If you head in the direction of legal action, then prepare to find somewhere else to work once the fight is done. You may effect some change but staying somewhere where you’re not appreciated for who you are never makes sense. 

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