Workplace Policies of Jewish Nonprofits to Come Under Review

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has announced that it will begin an effort to investigate the existing workplace policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees at Jewish nonprofit organizations. The work, an expansion of HRC’s workplace equality project, is supported by a generous lead grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and supporting grants from The Morningstar Foundation, Stuart S. Kurlander – a leader in several non-profit Jewish and Jewish LGBT community organizations – and an anonymous donor.

“The continued marginalization of LGBT Jews in some quarters is especially disheartening for those of us who believe in the power of a fully inclusive Jewish community that embraces every person as having equal and infinite merit,” said Lynn Schusterman, chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. “We hope that by creating this equality index, we can advance a process whereby LGBT Jews will be more welcomed and protected in the workplace and in Jewish community organizations, which will, in turn, create a more open, vibrant and diverse Jewish community.”

Last year Schusterman issued a call for all Jewish organizations to join her family’s foundation in adopting non-discrimination hiring policies that specifically mention sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Put into context, today, anyone can be fired for their sexual orientation in 21 states, or for their gender identity or expression in 38 states. Although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have enjoyed increased protections among the largest employers and in certain states over the last decade, the vast majority of LGBT employees remain unprotected. Information on current practices at nonprofits is largely unavailable and likely to reveal a strong need for education in workplaces on the organizational benefits that flow from treating LGBT employees fairly. This project will serve as a pilot to expand workplace equality into other non-profits and small employers of all sorts.

The initial goals of the work include assessing existing practices and highlighting areas for education. The HRC Foundation will develop and administer a survey, benchmark results against selected criteria for LGBT workplace inclusiveness and publish a report based on a review of approximately 300 organizations. The work will also include an assessment of organizations’ cultural competency in delivering services to the LGBT community, such as whether the agency has inclusive language and messaging for LGBT clients, customers, students, campers, youth or parents. The initial report is scheduled for release in 2012.