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easier not to talk about it.
That goes for LGBTQ
people but also for their employers. A company that hides behind a blanket
corporate policy that "everyone is equal" is simply avoiding the
subject—because one-size-fits-all does not fit everyone well, especially in
terms of traveler safety and security. True support for a diverse workforce can
occur only when policymakers, decision-makers, managers and employees talk
openly and frankly about what each individual needs in order to do their job
BTN decided to talk about it. Managing editor
Amanda Metcalf gathered travel stakeholders, LGBTQ stakeholders and some who
BTN: Sheah, you manage Cummins' travel security and
crisis response programs, and the company proactively supports LGBTQ employees
as part of those efforts. What prompted that attention?
Hilton: We are a global corporation
with multiple businesses that design, manufacture, distribute and service
diesel and natural gas engines and related technologies. We have travelers,
expats and employees all over the world. All of our security services tie back
to diversity being one of Cummins' key values. Our approach is encouraging
diversity so that we get a more well-rounded workforce. Since we have customers
all around the world, we have to ensure that employees feel secure and
confident in the support they will receive while traveling to support the
business or working on assignment away from their home.
BTN: When and how has your department been called to
action for LGBTQ travelers?
actually had a few cases, not a problem at all but just helping employees with
concerns that they have prior to travel, typically. We're available 24/7. We
have a bank of operators, and then we work with iJET to supply various
intelligence products for employees. We had one where a woman was applying for
a visa to go to India, and she didn't know how to respond to some of the spouse
questions. We were able to support with doing some of the research to
understand how that process should work for her.
It's really hard to put into a policy, but you ... have a policy that really reinforces to employees that you will support them if they run into issues."
This is a little bit less around travel, but the Twin Cities
Pride Festival was occurring about a week after the Orlando shooting. We had
some employees who coordinated our booth and volunteers to run it who just
voiced some concern. Proactively, we worked with the Cummins event coordinators
to have a plan in place of how they could reach out to us if they needed
BTN: So employees can come to you with questions or
concerns, but how do you protect employees who have not approached you? You can't
track sexual orientation or gender identification, right? Or ask people to
of what form of diversity we're talking about, especially when we're looking at
travel, our No. 1 goal—and this is on our policy, as well—is to make sure that
the traveler is comfortable with the situation [and] if they are not, that they
have the option and the right to choose not to take a trip. So where we help
balance that is giving the employee as much information and resources as
possible so that they can make a decision that they feel most comfortable with.
We try to provide the information upfront so no one has to
disclose to us anything that they maybe don't want to share. We provide the
LGBT security assessment rating in all of our documentation. We provide a lot
of upfront LGBT and other diversity resources so that people can go seek it out
versus having to ask us and give out some of that information that may be
private to them. It's an optional disclosure that way, but we can still answer
a lot of their questions.
Du Preez: You know, organizations need to have a proactive approach to their
travel programs in consideration. Are you looking at including risk assessment,
communication and training for the LGBTQ community? These are things that organizations
need to do. It's information that needs to be gathered and monitored and
updated frequently to determine how that situation is developing in the cities
and countries that the travelers are traveling to. Having documented policy
around that to include all travelers, which obviously includes the LGBTQ
community, and then making sure that we're communicating, that we're offering
advice and training if needed or on-demand type training if somebody says, "Hey,
you know, I'm traveling to this country, and I don't feel comfortable. What can
I do to make myself more aware of the situations and create that safer
It becomes a lot more expensive ... to respond when you don't have procedures in place."
BTN: Have any of you worked with anyone who has actively
said, "I don't want to go on this trip or to this destination?"
Cummins, we have had situations or a request to maybe delay travel. I don't
think that any of the cases was related specifically to LGBT concern. We've
always had other issues where, given the current risk environment, they made
Jones: It's not necessarily LGBT
related, but we had a quite high-level director from the Tata Group who was
traveling from St. Petersburg back to London. She was taken aside by an FSB
agent, which is the [successor to the] KGB, and was taken into a room and
questioned for about five hours. This was a female, and, you know, she was left
very, very shaken. They asked questions relating to her visa and the travel
arrangements. Unfortunately, Tata used a dodgy visa company that they didn't
know was dodgy. She then went to the British embassy, and they basically said
to her, "Sorry, madam, you need to go to the Russian embassy." The
Russian embassy effectively passed it back to the U.K, so she was caught
between a rock and a hard place. The second time she went, she got shut in a
room in Moscow. Then, she was given a letter, and they basically said that she
needed to come back to answer several more questions.
She needed to travel quite frequently to Russia from London,
and she just said to her employer, "I can't do this. I don't know what to
do." Then, she contacted us as a last resort. Eventually, we got her name
taken off the list. We work specifically on individual cases in the event that
they are either incarcerated or there's an issue abroad where governments tend
to wash their hands.
BTN: Bruce, have you at Marriott had to deal with anyone
who felt insecure or threatened?
Rohr: I've seen it almost a little
bit opposite of the question: Our managers at our hotel in Cairo were told that
they are kind of a safe haven for the LGBT community, whether that's expats or
travelers going through Cairo, because the hotel developed a reputation for
being a safe place and that spread through word of mouth. I personally can tell
you I was asked to go on a trip to the Middle East a few years ago and had to
have some really thorough conversations with my leadership team because one of
the countries I was going to was Saudi Arabia and I was absolutely concerned
about what that meant for me.
This is really hard for me to admit, but I definitely kept myself closeted within that country because my safety and security trumped my need to be out."
BTN: How did it play out, if you don't mind me asking?
mean, I'm not going to lie. This is really hard for me to admit, but I
definitely kept myself closeted within that country because my safety and
security trumped my need to be out.
BTN: Can or should a company decline to send travelers of
any particular demographic somewhere based on the company's own concerns about
Fidas: This is such a good question. It's
frankly one that a lot of companies are grappling with. What HRC talks to
businesses about is that fundamentally, the center of the decision-making
process would be the self-determination of an employee. There are a lot of
demographic groups that will face challenges. For example, someone who depends
on a wheelchair for mobility may not want to be relocated to Rome. Are we
talking quality of life? Are we talking about a literal inability to get around
town? Similarly, a gay man [might agree] to go to a hardship post. That's not
that dissimilar from other career choices that people make. With room for some
exceptions, it should not be the unilateral decision of the company to say, "You
know what? You're LGBT," unless there's really concrete evidence as to why
that poses an imminent threat to that person's safety or standing.
that willingness to have a really frank conversation with the security
professionals, the employee, their manager and make sure that if they have
concerns, they're fully informed to be able to make a decision. Then, if they
choose to go on a trip where there could be potentially higher risks or take an
expat assignment, it's assessing: Are there steps that [the company] can take
to reduce their risk? Can we coordinate a car service? Can we locate you in a
particular neighborhood that has additional safety features? It's having
flexibility to fit the needs of each individual traveler.
BTN: Deena, what else is HRC noticing in its work with
are seeing a heightened sense of awareness, but also the other side of that
coin: challenge around transgender mobility. And while there are some options,
if you will, available to for example a gay man or a lesbian woman to not to be
out, there are some unique legal challenges with respect to visas, gender
markers on passports, documentation that would be prohibited in terms of a
transgender person simply saying, "Oh, well, I'll just be closeted."
Part of this work is really just opening up the line of
communication between HR, those in management and the individual employee to be
able to explain precisely what the challenges are or whether they were more
cultural or those are actually physical safety.
She was taken aside by an FSB agent, which is the [successor to the] KGB, and was taken into a room and questioned for about five hours. This was a female, and, you know, she was left very, very shaken."
BTN: It sounds like the ideal of optimizing travel
programs—by getting HR, security, finance, operations and others to work together—Graduates
from an aspiration to a necessity in order to truly ensure the security of
LGBTQ travelers and expats.
true for us. We have built, in each of our major regions, a crisis-response
structure, a cross-functional team who's trained in how to respond in various
situations. In order to really thoroughly support an employee, you have to be
able to reach out on the ground to security, HR, help and safety, maybe even
legal, and have all of those relationships be really strong. A lot of times, if
something does happen where you need to provide extra support for a traveling
employee, it happens very quickly. Maybe you're talking about making decisions
about spend or where to move someone, and having everyone at the table at one
time really helps that process move along.
BTN: So how should travel managers incorporate all this
into travel policy? What legal protections do business travelers have based on
where they live or where their company is based?
country really varies. You need to work very closely with your legal team.
Because we want to encourage that diversity and support a wide range of
employees and encourage that movement of people, we provide a lot of support to
travelers. We've got a medical vendor that we support. In terms of legal
support, it can really vary based on the country laws. It's really hard to put
into a policy, but at least in my opinion, you provide as much support as you
possibly can and have a policy that really reinforces to employees that you will
support them if they run into issues while they're doing business for you.
BTN: Travel policies often read as an assignment list of
responsibilities. The company promises to do X, and the traveler is obligated
or responsible to do Y. But LGBTQ safety and security policy really skews
toward the company. There's not much you can ask of the travelers themselves.
Du Preez: It
becomes voluntary. We recommend that organizations have a travel risk
management policy—separate [from the] travel policy that gives you initial
guidance on things such as the hotels, ground transportation and medical
support. Then you can offer additional advice and guidance to the LGBT
community, saying, "This is completely voluntary. This is made available
to you by the organization: additional training or resources that you can use
prior to your travel or during your travel." In addition, you would have
your business travel insurance and, as Sheah had mentioned, work very closely
with your legal team. Several clients that we work with have protocols in place
and have relationships with local legal resources, [as well].
recently was asked to speak to Lockheed Martin's global LGBT Leadership Forum
not necessarily because they don't have the policies in place—this is probably
a fair statement of many travel managers: It's more about awareness. Especially
if we're talking a long-term assignment and you want to encourage someone to go
for that assignment overseas into a place where it's not LGBT friendly, knowing
those implications and having that awareness. We still have a long ways to go
within the travel industry, especially for travel managers to fully understand
It should not be the unilateral decision of the company to say, 'You know what? You're LGBT,' unless there's really concrete evidence as to why that poses an imminent threat to that person's safety or standing."
BTN: For a company to really feel like it's doing as much
as it can with a risk management program—for all travelers—the price tag can be
pretty hefty, no?
Du Preez: It
can be [but] you also have to look at what happens if things go bad and you
haven't planned and put a program in place. It becomes a lot more expensive on
the back end to respond when you don't have procedures in place than paying for
a plan upfront and being proactive.
BTN: Could small companies with limited budgets and legal
resources be afraid to take small steps toward serving their LGBTQ travelers
and then face liability for an incomplete program, for lack of a better term?
Du Preez: Yeah,
I think it's really hard. What organizations need to do is at least start
somewhere. Start small and be able to show that you're taking the initiative to
put a program in place. For example, iJET has the Travel Risk Management
Maturity Model. We evaluate programs across 10 key process areas, and we kind
of give them a gap analysis of where to put their focus so they can at least
spend the budget they have on fixing the critical areas, bringing them up to
par. Then, you can start focusing on the more detailed issues. And very
targeted. You look at where specifically you're doing business so that you're
only paying attention to those critical regions, that you're not just throwing
a blanket program in place.
BTN: So Sheah, do you feel Cummins' proactive outreach
and aggressive policy Have headed off troublesome scenarios for travelers? Has
it made a tangible difference?
employees know that they can come to you with whatever concerns they have and
that your intentions are to create a safe environment for them, that allows a
lot of things to come to the table that you may not have known about had they
been hesitant to share that information. I would definitely say yes: Having
these plans and programs in place has made a big difference in our ability to
prevent crises on the back end.
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