Do Ask ? Do Tell p.13

By: DEBRA GERSH HERNANDEZ WHAT DO YOU think caused your heterosexuality? Is it possible that your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of? Isn't it possible that all you need is a good, gay lover?
If those questions made you think, that's exactly what they are supposed to do.
And if they sound familiar, they should; they often are posed to gays and lesbians rather than to heterosexuals.
Those questions ? to which there are no answers, whether asked of a straight or gay person ? are part of a new seminar, "Sexual Orientation in the Workplace," from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, that already is being used by a number of newspapers.
The original program was developed by Hollywood Supports, a group founded to fight bias in the entertainment industry, but as NLGJA president Leroy Aarons explained, the basic elements are common to any workplace.
The seminar has been incorporated into Knight-Ridder's training programs, and is being seen by a number of associations and individual newspapers as well, Aarons said.
The first objective of the program is to help participants understand that homophobia is a workplace issue, NLGJA training coordinator Nancy Murrell told those at a pre-convention demonstration of the seminar prior to the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference.
Other objectives include increasing people's comfort level when talking about sexual orientation in the workplace and opening a discussion for increased awareness.
The awareness issue affects not only coverage but also impacts on the workplace, Aarons said.
As Aarons and Murrell demonstrated at the seminar, the small audience was asked to challenge its assumptions about stereotyping of gay and lesbian journalists, and how a hostile environment can affect them and their careers. The language of inclusiveness was discussed (for example, using the term "sexual orientation" instead of "sexual preference"); as were benefits offered by a company that may or may not be required by state law; and other similar issues.
As part of the program, NLGJA developed a "model of parity" that includes 14 steps to fairness in the workplace. The first five steps relate to climate and the remaining nine to compensation.

They are:
u Adopt, publicize and enforce a written policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in recruitment, hiring, evaluation, advancement or compensation.
u Train managers, interviewers and employees to be sensitive to gay and lesbian issues, and to make a clear distinction between these and AIDS issues.
u Avoid double standards. Apply policies dealing with sexual harassment, nepotism, spousal listings in directories and the like equally to opposite-sex and same-sex situations.
u Combat insensitivity and isolation. Allow gay and lesbian employees to form workplace networks, and treat them the same as other employee groups.
u Promote fair and balanced coverage. Consider lesbian and/or gay angles important elements of coverage.

u Health-, dental- and vision-care insurance and COBRA-equivalent coverage.
u Employee assistance program services such as substance abuse counseling.
u Family and medical leave.
u Funeral or bereavement leave.
u Parenting leave, child-care services, adoption assistance and dependent-child scholarships.
u Beneficiary designations for pensions and other income benefits.
u Travel and relocation benefits for interviewing or moving.
u Financial counseling.
u Flexible spending accounts such as funds for health- or child-care expenses.
The NLGJA is offering trained facilitators to news organizations at no charge ? although some travel reimbursement may be required in some parts of the country ? and also is willing to train in-house facilitators for the program.
June 22, 1996 n Editor & Publisher #


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