In an effort to become more aware of LGBTQ issues, members of the Greater Grand Forks Human Resources Association met at the Alerus Center ballroom on Thursday Oct. 10, for a presentation and lunch given by a Grand Forks police officer.
Corporal Vanessa Richter, a sexual diversity liaison officer with the police department, gave a presentation called “Creating a LGBTQ Friendly Workplace” to a group of more than 30 professionals.
Richter gave a PowerPoint presentation usually used in-house for police officer training. The program was called “Out to Protect” and included a rundown of terminology used in the community, a brief history of the civil rights movement of the LGBTQ community, and a general overview of the legal situation in North Dakota. The aim of the program was to raise awareness of some of the issues law enforcement officers face, while allowing an opportunity for human resources professionals to interact over the material.
Richter noted that, in general, incidents of violence in Grand Forks against people in the LGBTQ community are relatively low, though there is a need to remain vigilant.
“I would say Grand Forks is still pretty good, but we want to stay proactive and prevent it from happening,” said Richter. “We’ve had some false reports, false claims of stuff … that’s the stuff we are trying to get together, and show that the stuff is happening in Grand Forks, it could happen in Grand Forks.”
The presentation touched on the nature of Richter’s job -- there is also another sexual diversity liaison officer -- that some people in the LGBTQ community are afraid of the police, which necessitates officers reaching out to members of the community.
“That’s what this liaison program is about,” she said.
The presentation also mentioned the current state of anti-discrimination laws in North Dakota, and the fact that North Dakota law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity in laws prohibiting discrimination.
Reading from a bullet point on her presentation, Richter said: “In the vast majority of states, a same-sex couple could get married on the weekend, return to their employer on Monday and be fired legally without anything being done.”
Richter was asked a question by an attendee asking if, in North Dakota, a person could be fired for being gay. She replied: “Yep.”
The lunch meeting is part of GGHRA’s regular meeting schedule that features speakers on topics of interest to people in human resources, and allowing them an opportunity to network.