Queer eye for corporate America

Bryan Tolles

Rainbow Week is an excellent time to reflect on the advancement of homosexuals in the workplace. A report published by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in 2003 reported that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits. It is apparent that gay rights in the workplace are becoming more prominent.

But are there circumstances when an individual’s sexual orientation impedes the overall functioning of the institution or organization the individual is a part of?

The Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy hints at one of these circumstances. In elements of combat, the cohesion of a unit is vital to its survival. The 1994 United States statute claimed that the topic of homosexuality would “create an unacceptable risks” to morale. If morale is down, people die.

Does having homosexuals present in certain organizations impede their ability to reach their goals? I am not saying that homosexuals cannot effectively work in corporate America. In most settings, one’s sexual orientation should have no business being discussed.

Garnering the respect of your co-workers, however, can be considered a sort of job requirement and certainly something that is highly valued in an employee. But if being homosexual hinders this from developing, what options are there for an employer? In today’s politically correct and lawsuit-friendly society, people expect that the sexual orientation of your co-workers will not inhibit your individual performance.

When performance is sacrificed, however, the employer has two options: Keep the employee for fear that his/her removal would spark a lawsuit or expect the ignorant minds common in the United States to change. I can promise that the latter will not change anytime soon.

Barring homosexuals may be immoral, but not necessarily illegal. Private organizations — albeit, operating under different rules than corporations — have asserted their right to selectively hire if they believe that a person’s sexual orientation inhibits fulfillment of their mission. In 2000, the Supreme Court supported The Boy Scouts of America’s right to bar homosexuals from becoming troop leaders.

Furthermore, there are situations when a straight male may be out of place. I have a plenty of student group leadership experience and know the ins-and-outs of every Associated Student Government policy. That still would not make me fully competent to take over as president of the Rainbow Alliance. It also may not be best for a straight male to work for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a LBGT lobbyist group. I am not saying that a straight person cannot be successful in a career dominated by homosexuals, but one’s placement has to be carefully considered.

If a minority presence is inhibiting the greater good of an organization, when is it appropriate to let this presence go, morality aside?

Bryan Tolles is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected]