This evening we had a dinner meeting to discuss the employee handbook. My company is *very* small (six full time employees) and we have been lacking in some written policies for a while. There were lots of boring paragraphs about confidentiality and intellectual properties and comp time (or its abolishment - yeah!). Tucked away towards the end amongst all the mumbo jumbo was this policy statement: It is the policy of [Our Tiny Software Co] to prohibit discrimination against employees or job applicants based on their race, color, religion, national origin, political affiliation, disability, sex or age. This Equal Employment Opportunity policy was developed to protect you from unfair treatment relating to any of the above facts and applies to recruitment, hiring, training, promotions, transfers, and all other personnel actions taken by [Our Tiny Software Co].
Notice what's missing? Most people don't. I thought maybe I read it wrong. But there it was in black and white. Nowhere did it say anything about sexual orientation. The next paragraph talked about violations of the law (versus our policy). At lunch with Bossman, I asked if they were two different things and Bossman basically said yeah, meaning they were different but nobody reads it anyways and all this wording came from the lawyer's office.
Hmm. For a few hours, I didn't want to bring it up. I thought they would think I was being nit-picky. I thought they would make some dorky comment about it that would embarrass me. But driving to dinner, I realized that if it wasn't important, I wouldn't be obsessing over it. I decided it was crucial.
So at our dinner meeting I told Dan (our fella writing up this handbook) I would like sexual orientation added to the company policy.
Dan: "It's not part of the law. We can't add it."
Me: "But you just said that the first paragraph is our policy and the second paragraph is the law. They're even labelled as such. I know you can't change the law, I just want it in our policy."
Pause from Dan. Dan takes handbook and reads paragraphs again.
Dan: "Well, if we add that who can we discriminate against? Geez!" (always a joker)
Me: "I would like it in the policy ... unless someone objects."
Dan: "Ok, I'll add it."
Score one for me! It may sound silly, but it's important. Just because all the employees (besides me) are upper middle class married white guys, we can't ignore it. It may not seem important if you're not in that group. But unless you can come up with a good reason for discriminating against sexual orientation in a software development company (which is what you're doing by refusing to put it in the handbook when asked), I want it in my handbook. So there. If you don't plan on discriminating against it, then why would you object to putting it in the book?
I know that it was an oversight and ignorance rather than any homophobic malice on any of my coworkers' parts. But it became more and more important to me the more I thought about it. Even the fact that it would be in the policy paragraph and not the violation paragraph would be even more of a point made. The handbook would then say something about how we operate as a company instead of just which federal holidays we get to accrue.
I can't change the laws of our state (it *is* Virginia after all - home of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson). I can, however, have a voice in the policies of my company. For some reason, those two words added to my handbook make me feel like my company cares just a little more about me. I know I get props from Bossman and get satisfaction from my career. But sometimes it's nice to see it in writing.
One foot out of the glass closet.