Last month, I wrote about Florida’s Stop Woke Act – which limits what DEI training companies with employees in Florida can roll out. On the heels of that comes the “Parental Rights in Education Law” in Florida – commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. This law bars public school teachers from engaging in classroom discussions around gender identity or sexual orientation.
Florida lawmakers argue that the law’s intent is to empower parents and protect children. LGBTQIA advocacy groups say that the law is more about moving forward a political agenda that is hostile to their community. Regardless of the intent, there is a compliance impact on educational institutions – as well as companies that operate in Florida. That’s because the law will have repercussions for employees who are LGBTQIA or who are raising LGBTQIA students. DEI and ESG officers – and anyone whose success is measured by employee retention & satisfaction – should take note.
The effects of this law are already being felt directly in educational settings, as teachers and administers remove pride flags and images of their own families if they do not fit the traditional hetero-normative, cisgender mold. The broader ripple effects of this law may include:
- Students who identify as LGBTQ+, have parents or family members who identify as LGBTQ+ will struggle to understand how to talk about their own identities and their families in environments that do not condone the discussion. Family members of LGBTQ+ students may bring this feeling of “not belonging” to their own workplaces.
- Family members of affected students may need support in finding additional resources to navigate gender identity & sexual orientation topics.
- School staff who identify as LGBTQ+, or who have parents or family members who identify as LGBTQ+, will feel like they cannot bring their full selves to their work.
- Students and staff will no longer receive education on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation – as employees join the workforce over time, companies that prioritize an inclusive environment will need to take up more of that educational role themselves.
Other states are also enacting anti-LGBTQ+ laws in an educational setting, all of which have come into effect this month.
- Alabama House Bill 322 – Prevents transgender students from using facilities like restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity and bars educators from engaging inn classroom instruction on topics of gender identity and sexual orientation from Kindergarten through fifth grade
- Indiana House Bill 1041 – Prevents transgender students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity
- South Dakota Senate Bill 46 – Prevents transgender students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity
- South Dakota House Bill 1012 – Prevents “forced” or “compelled” speech in college orientations or trainings related to race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity or national origin deemed as divisive.
- Tennessee House Bill 1895 & 2153 – Prevents transgender students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity
- Tennessee Senate Bill 2153 – Restricts searchable content on school computers that could include LGBTQ+ issues.
- Utal House Bill 11 – Prevents transgender students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity
If you have employees in these states, this is another example of how your DEI efforts may need to be enhanced or changed based on geographic location. Also remember that your support of your LGBTQ+ employees should extend beyond Pride month. This is a great opportunity to exhibit your culture of inclusion by communicating to your workforce your awareness of these laws and that you understand that it may impact them. Share any resources that may support them through the challenging time, such as mental health programs your company offers.
We provide a number of checklists offering practical guidance on how to support your employees using mental health policies and programs – e.g., on the topic of identifying the right mental health programs to offer to your employees. Members can access these resources at any time on our “Checklists” page. If you aren’t already a PESG member, call 800-737-1271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and take advantage of our “100 Day Promise” – During the first 100 days as an activated member, you may cancel for any reason and receive a full refund!