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Reader Feedback Traveling With a Gay Employee

Letters about pairing up people to room together on the road.
November 12, 2002
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Some ideas and opinions shared by readers who responded to recent advice onhow to handle employees who don’t want to sleep in the same room with anemployee who might be gay.

    "I believe the question and your answer missed a valid consideration. I amrequired to travel extensively in my profession. Perhaps I am fortunate comparedto others, but I have always maintained a travel persona that mirrors my homecity persona. That is to say, what I do and how I live when traveling is nodifferent that when at home. Thus, if I don't share a room at home I certainlydo not -- and will not -- do so when traveling. It has nothing to do withhomophobia or anything else.
    Employees that travel, contrary to the mythical beliefs of others, areinconvenienced enough to be away from home on behalf of the company. To imposesuch ridiculous expectations under the guise of "cutting costs" ispenny-wise and dollar stupid. If the trip is of value to send an employee, it isof value to allow that employee the basic comforts of home. Any company thatexpects otherwise from its employees needs to take a long look at its policiesand expectations."--Lou Mavredes, PHR, Vice President, Organizational Development, LandAmericaFinancial Group, Inc., Richmond, Virginia

    "What if the company gave a "room allowance" also for those thatreally didn't want to share? People don't have to be homophobic to not want toshare rooms. Those folks might be willing to foot a portion of the bill inexchange for privacy."--Mary Sanders

    "Regarding your article about rooming up with a gay coworker, I believe youmiss the point entirely, as do many when addressing the diversity issue. I askyou this: Would you pair up men and women in a room together? The subject hereis not about acceptance of another's lifestyle. What one person does behindclosed doors is completely up to themselves. However, consider the feelings ofthe 'straight' individual placed in this setting as you would a woman forced toroom with a man.
    Would you expect her to feel comfortable in this venue? I believe youwouldn't and shouldn't. The same applies in the scenario outlined in yourarticle. Unwanted attention is still unwanted attention, whether it be straightor gay. It creates unneeded attention and, ultimately a hostile environment. Iexperienced this firsthand as an insurance representative, when my roommate (agay man) made advances towards me of an aggressive nature while on the road. Ifit had been a male-female encounter, what would it have been called? Sexualharassment of course!
    Unacceptance of another's lifestyle does NOT necessarily imply intolerance!Rather, tolerance is not a unilateral issue, and to respect one person's sexualpreference also carries the responsibility to respect another's moral or ethicaldecision regarding homosexuality. You can't honor one at the expense of theother.
    In the workplace, some boundaries are necessary and this is such a case. Thisbeing a rather unique situation, farsighted individuals should have accountedfor the potential for difficulties and acted preemptively."--MichaelYarnall, MBA, M.A. in Human Resources, Phoenix, Arizona

    "Here's another option that companies may want to consider when faced withtrying to deal with employee concerns about having to share hotel rooms due to acompany's need to cut costs.
    When I was working at IBM Canada we had a similar policy of having to sharerooms at conferences to allow more people to attend while keeping costs down.They did provide a time period for people to find their own roommates otherwiseas you suggested, they would be paired up randomly.
    Still we had some people who were uncomfortable sharing rooms no matter what.I proposed to management to give employees the option of paying for the otherhalf of the costs of the hotel room so that they can have their own private roomif they weren't comfortable with sharing. This solution worked since it gaveemployees another option, the company was able to keep costs down and the otheremployees didn't feel resentment since those who had private rooms paid theextra costs."--Vicki Cal, Senior Manager, Analytics, Customer Relationship Management,Hudson's Bay Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    "I think that this is all wrong. Wouldn't this be the same as asking awoman to share a room with a man to control costs? This is not the right way tocontrol costs. Personally, I would elect not to go to the conference."--Mike O'Neal, Human Resource Manager

    "At our company, first we offer the option of choosing a roommate. Then weoffer people the option of paying the difference between the price of a singleroom and the price of a shared room. Some people are not comfortable withsharing a room with anyone, regardless of how they feel about sexualorientation."--Susan Long, HR Consultant, Customer Works, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    "The obvious solution is for the company to be professional and give eachadult their own room. If the company can't afford two rooms then a cheaper hotelor locale is warranted. Most adults gave up sleeping in rooms with strangerswhen they left college. It is absurd to require employees to room with'strangers' of either sex or any sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual,bi-sexual etc).--Name withheld upon request, 18 years experience in human resources

    "Thanks for addressing the issue oftraveling with a Gay Co-Worker. I like the advice you gave. My concern is thatyou didn't address the core of the issue. The writer seems to assume that thosewho don't want to share a room with a Gay co-worker are homophobic. I takeexception to that. Not wanting to share a room with a gay co-worker is in asense, respecting that person's sexual orientation. Would this company pair aheterosexual man and a woman in the same room? No. Because they respect the factthat the apparent differences make the pairing of the two inappropriate. Thesame is true for putting a gay coworker in the room with a straight coworker ofthe same gender. It is just as inappropriate as putting two people of oppositegenders in the room." -- Meloney J. Sallie-Dosunmu, Employee Relations& Development Manager, Just Born, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

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