Background information


Every day, all over the world, people face prejudice, discrimination and violence in the workplace and in society
on the basis of their sexual orientation or their gender identity or gender expression.

Many employers discriminate against lesbians and gay men or against transgenders in all aspects of work
in recruitment, promotion, dismissal and in conditions of work. Sometimes colleagues tend to exclude lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans or intersex workers, stigmatize them, harass them.

There are few countries that provide any legal protection against such discrimination.
In fact in some countries there is specific legislation which criminalizes lesbians and gay men.
Many countries have laws that do not accept the fact that a (transgender) person may feel male when his body is considered female, or the other way around.

In many countries physicians operate people who at birth show characteristics of both the male and the female gender. People who have been operated like this (intersex) may in later life find themselves to be not comfortable with the body they have after operation. How will they function at work? And will their own feelings of their gender be leading in their acceptance by colleagues, or will the body as operated be leading?
Bisexuals face another type of discrimination: can they be open about their homosexual feelings and/or experiences?

Sexuality and work - for some people it is an uneasy combination of subjects.
However, this web site is not about sex at work. It is about discrimination. You have to realize that workers also have a life, which includes sexual feelings and maybe experiences, sometimes relationships.
The issue is caused by the fact that at work, everybody is assumed to be heterosexual and either obviously male or obviously female.

But there is more diversity in nature, and also in or human society.
That means there is also more diversity among (potential) workers.

One of the key tasks for trade unions is to work for the improvement of working conditions for all workers, for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and the promotion of social and economic justice.
Many trade unions and international trade union organisations actively work to defend and promote not only trade union rights, but also other basic human rights.
In recent years there has been a growing recognition that trade union action on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights should be an integral part of an overall policy to fight discrimination and protect workers' rights and the rights of the unemployed.

This recognition that LGBTI rights are human rights and trade union issues has been reflected in the policies of an increasing number of individual unions (mainly in Europe and the Americas)
and trade union bodies such as
  • Public Services International (PSI),
  • Education International (EI) and
  • the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

The International Labour Organisation ILO has also noticed the importance of this type of non-discrimination policies. Read about its PRIDE project here.
At the occasion of IDAHOBIT 2020, so in May, the Council of Global Unions reaffirms its ongoing commitment to building respect and dignity for all workers, emphasising that every worker is entitled to work free from discrimination and violence regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. Read the declaration here

However, not every trade union has actively taken up LGBTI rights issues or developed strategies to confront discrimination and prejudice in the workplace.
In general, the involvement and participation of LGBTI union members has been an important factor in the development of these strategies.
The active unions now recognise that if they would tolerate discrimination against any union member this adversely would affect all union members.

This web site documents the development in preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at the labour market and the workplace, and focuses on the role of trade unions and trade union organisations. It talks about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, where in history the emphasis was first on gay rights, later on lesbian and gay rights, later on LGBT rights, and nowadays also on intersex rights (LGBTI rights).

Do you want to read more about the backgrounds and the work done so far? Here is some literature: