Ready to take the next step in your career? Visit the career center closest to you. Learn more.

June 5, 2023


Did you know that until the Equality Act of 2010, it was entirely legal to fire someone for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? Even over a decade after the law was enacted, some workplace environments aren’t as supportive as their companies’ policies state. This means many working professionals still struggle to find workplace acceptance.

While there is much more work to be done to increase diverse workplaces that provide a culture of acceptance and understanding beyond the mandated policy level, there are approaches to help discover whether a company offers a safe place for LGBTQIA+ employees. This guide helps LGBTQIA+ individuals determine an employer’s inclusivity and helps individuals and allies learn how to lead the charge in creating a culture of belonging in the workplace while growing your professional network.

Understand Your Rights

All employees have a right to feel safe at work. Understanding your rights as an employee is an essential first step to avoid potentially harmful situations and be aware of whether an employer is legally crossing the line and can be held accountable.

In addition to federal protections such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits an employer from discriminating on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects LGBTQIA+ employees by explicitly prohibiting employers from terminating, harassing or otherwise discriminating against any employee based on the employee’s actual, assumed or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

Some questions are illegal for an employer to ask during an interview when they are used as factors to decide whether to hire a candidate. Questions that do not relate to the role, such as medical history, gender or sexual orientation, can be red flags to look out for when interviewing with an employer.

Determining If a Company Provides an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Workplace Culture 

Several indicators of an inclusive workplace culture should be considered when applying to a company, such as policies, external support of community organizations and internal employee engagement. This information can be gathered through both in-depth research prior to applying for a job and during the interview process.   

Before you submit your application, review the job announcement. Most employers place their non-discrimination policy at the end of their job descriptions. Look for language that mentions “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Some employers will take the extra step and strongly encourage gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer workers to apply. If not found in the job description, visit the employer’s website. The non-discrimination language can most likely be found in their career opportunities section. 

Before interviewing, conduct research on the company. Look for instances of their support for LGBTQIA+ organizations and published industry information and resources that benefit the community. The Human Rights Campaign created the Corporate Equality Index to track corporate policies and practices toward LGBTQIA+ employees. Using the index can give you clear insights into the company’s policies. Having this information makes it easier to ask the right questions during the interview process.  

When speaking with the hiring manager, ask about specific policies they have enacted in the past five years to become more inclusive, such as whether they use pronouns in their email or have any active internal support groups for their LGBTQIA+ staff.    

Advocating for Inclusivity and Creating a Culture of Belonging  

The keys to being a great advocate are communication, connection and consistency. You want to ensure that key players in your organization understand what you are trying to accomplish and why it is important to you. Before bringing suggestions to leadership, start with your supervisor and those you work closely with. Then begin to gain support from other staff members, including those who don’t identify as LGBTQIA+; they can be great supporters as you build your proposal. 

Next, set up a meeting with human resources to discuss changes. They can help you understand the organization’s capacity to administer any changes. Once you have built a supportive base and understanding of your organization’s policy, it is time to start meeting with leadership and making your proposal more widely known. For more support on how to become an advocate, read the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s resource for Advocating for LGBTQ Equality in Your Workplace.  


There are community resources doing great work that may be able to assist you with your job search and/or help advocate for inclusivity in your workplace. Check out the lists below. 

Local Organizations and Groups 

LGBTQ+ Job Boards 

Connect With Us
Stay in the know

The Workforce Partnership is dedicated to providing San Diego Residents with the most up-to-date resources for finding a career.

Subscribe to our newsletter.