LGBTQ+ rights have been significantly limited this year, from the Don't Say Gay law taking effect in Florida, to the almost 240 other anti-LGBTQ bills filed in 2022 so far. As a result, it's important for LGBTQ+ professionals to have safe, inclusive work environments now more than ever.
According to Drew McCaskill, a career expert at LinkedIn, this kind of legislation has already had severe, negative effects on LGBTQ+ professionals.
"According to our data, more than 53% of LGBTQ+ workers hide their identity in the workplace, often citing a fear of discrimination and a persistent feeling of being unwelcome," McCaskill tells CNBC Make It. "This identity struggle has detrimental impacts on their health, happiness and productivity, in addition to businesses' talent retention and leadership development. These feelings have only been exacerbated with anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, legislation and violence at an all-time high."
LinkedIn's "State of the LGBTQ+ Professional at Work'' report found that anti-LGBTQ legislation has impacted the mental health of 50% of LGBTQ+ professionals. And despite the 35% of LGBTQ+ professionals that look to their companies for mental health resources, 33% feel like their companies haven't made them feel supported or heard.
According to McCaskill, LGBTQ+ professionals may be able to avoid unsupportive workplaces by researching and networking during the job search, keeping these four things in mind.
Many LGBTQ+ employees rank their current or previous employers, using websites like Glassdoor to share their work experiences. Websites may also use these experiences to rate companies on their inclusivity, like the recently published "Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Graduates '' report from BestColleges, a career resource hub.
McCaskill also recommends that employees "see if the company takes part in the Human Right Campaign's annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates the LGBTQ inclusivity of a company's policies and practice."
The overturning of Roe v. Wade has sparked many companies to alter their benefits to be supportive of people with the capacity for pregnancy, with some companies even covering abortion travel costs for their employees.
In addition to this, McCaskill says employees should look out for benefits like parental leave, family formation (IVF, intrauterine insemination etc.), and employee resource groups.
"[Professionals should look for] LGBTQ+ inclusive family formation benefits regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status that are equivalent to the benefits offered to non-LGBTQ+ employees and remove barriers that limit LGBTQ+ individuals from accessing these benefits," he says. "LGBTQ+ inclusive paid family leave policies allow paid time off to care for domestic partners as well as the children of a domestic partner, regardless of biological or adoptive status."
Chances are, your peers may already know whether or not an organization is an LGBTQ+ ally.
"See if you have any first or second-degree contacts in your network that work at the company you're applying to. If so, you can reach out and ask questions about the workplace culture directly," McCaskill says.
Using professional social media sites, like LinkedIn, can be a great way to connect with professionals who have previously worked, or currently work, at a company you're interested in. If you went to college, your alumni network can also be a great way to find companies and opportunities that resonate with you. Many schools already have a networking community to help students and alumni connect and meet career goals.
Though a job interview is designed for companies to learn more about you, it's also the perfect setting for you to question employers on their company culture.
"An interview is a two-way process," McCaskill explains. "Remember it's also an opportunity for you to understand if the role is right for you. Ask questions that can help you get a better feel for the workplace culture. This can include: What are your core values? Do you have employee resource groups? How would you describe your company culture? Etc."