Some employers are very supportive of GLBT employees, and others have a more hostile environment. Although researching a company will not guarantee the behavior or attitudes of specific employees, it does provide you with a measure for how any incidents would be handled, and gives you an idea about the general atmosphere you can expect. Here are some of the topics you should research:
1. Non-Discrimination Policies. The first place to look for information about a potential employer is their non-discrimination clause. This policy is usually prominent in any promotional materials regarding employment. It often begins, "XYZ is an equal opportunity employer, and does not discriminate based on race, gender, age," etc. Look to see if sexual orientation is included in their statement.
2. State regulations regarding discrimination. Several states, Wisconsin included, specifically include sexual orientation in their employment non-discrimination laws. Not only does this give you an added measure of protection should something happen, but it also sets a general tone of acceptance, or at least tolerance, throughout the state. Human resource personnel and employers are well versed in the law, and try to take steps to ensure that they are following it. The "Helpful Resources" section of this site contains links to resources that will help you identify supportive states.
3. Domestic Partner Benefits. Many employers, particularly large companies or organizations, currently extend to domestic partners benefits that have traditionally been offered only to spouses of employees. Benefits such as health and life insurance, educational grants, and access to recreational facilities are often included in these packages. Although these may not seem important to you right now, they may become very important to you in the future, and at a minimum signify the organization's commitment to diversity. By providing these benefits, employers know that they are more likely to attract and retain highly skilled employees. For example, your partner may be more willing to relocate with you to a job if he or she knows that there will not be a gap in health care coverage. It also allows for more flexibility in careers or a return to school, a benefit enjoyed by spouses for many decades. Keep in mind, however, that "benefits" can vary greatly, and sometimes domestic partners must provide evidence of their partnership in order to receive benefits. For example, you may be asked to provide evidence that your finances are shared, you are named in each other's wills, and/or you own significant property (house/car) together. Although information regarding domestic partner benefits is often very easy to find, it may not be discussed until you are offered a job, when benefits typically are discussed. Again, using some of the resources provided by Career Services to research organizations' policies before an interview will prove beneficial.
4. GLBT Employee Groups. Some major employers offer formal or informal GLBT groups. Formal groups are authorized and supported by the employer, informal groups are organized by employees on their own time. Human resources personnel can tell you whether the employer has such an organization and provide contact names. Contacting alumni who work in the organization can be helpful, particularly if they were active in the university GLBT group while a student.