Will Civil Rights for GLBT Employees be the “New Normal?”

600 533 Ellen Ensher
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modernfamcrop        Kissing: fun to do and entertaining to watch on TV.  After my first week back to teaching I was having a Professor Couch Potato kind of night: TV, red wine, blankie.. .you get the picture. I noticed there was a lot of kissing going on and oddly enough it made me think about who we get to kiss and how this relates to work- in other words civil rights for GLBT employees. Here’s who I saw kissing on my TV night:

  • Grey’s Anatomy: Two doctors Callie and Arizona enjoyed lots of make-up kissing because Arizona was mad at Callie for a long time for amputating her leg so that she wouldn’t die.
  • Modern Family: Cam and Mitchell  engaged in a little squabbling,  lots of affection, and  they did a lot of the “ we have been together a long time” kind of kissing
  • New Normal: Bryan and David- They demonstrated the “we are still hot for each other and super excited we are having a baby” kind of kissing.

This week in class  I am going to be using  the Megan/Michael Wallent case (http://hbr.org/2010/11/crucible-changing-gender-on-the-job/ar/1 ) about a Microsoft manager who transitions from being a man to being a woman. It is a great way to bring up issues related to human resource management such as civil rights and employment law as well as issues related to organizational behavior like diversity.  It is also a terrific way to provoke some discussion and most importantly, keep the students awake!

I have been teaching for 15 years and every semester I cover employment law and invariably my students often guess wrong when I ask, “Is there a federal law that provides protection for GLBT employees?”  The answer of course, is No. (and yes, I do discuss state laws and corporate policies that offer protection).

It seems strange to many of my students  (and to me) that the United States has no federal law providing protection for discrimination in the workforce for GLBT employees. After all, pregnant ladies have one, so do disabled folks, old people have one too (ahem, that’s you if you are over 40 according to the Age Discrimination Employment Act).  Blacks, Latinos, and Asians and many other groups have one as well. The media both influences and reflects attitudes in society.  Could all this kissing on TV between gay and lesbian folks change attitudes, behaviors, and the law?  Perhaps the time has come when civil rights legislation for GLBT employees will be the “New Normal.”  I think it’s about time. What do you think?