When a Singapore-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) brand selling accessories put up an ad for an internship position on social media inviting only LGBT folks to apply, they were told by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) that doing so is discriminatory.
This is despite the fact that the guidelines do not mention sexual orientation or gender identity.
Heckin’ Unicorn said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (27 January) that it received a call from a manager at the TAFEP several hours after the internship ad went up.
Describing TAFEP’s implication that the ad is discriminatory as “weird”, the company recounted that the TAFEP manager conceded during the phone call that the Tripartite guidelines and website do not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity at all.
However, the manager went on to reassure Heckin’ Unicorn that LGBT folks are actually protected under the TAFEP guidelines.
Sharing an excerpt of the conversation, the TAFEP manager said: “I can assure you that you are protected. If anyone is looking for a job and encounter discrimination or anyone that doesn’t practice fair employment, you can feedback to us and we will be happy to pick up the case and engage with the company.”
When Heckin’ Unicorn asked if TAFEP would update its website and guidelines to reflect this so that all employers in Singapore are aware, the manager initially agreed and said that he would work with his marketing colleagues to sort it out, adding that he understands the company’s reason for wanting the update.
The TAFEP manager also said that he would submit a request to his marketing team to have the website updated, though he did mention that it would take up to four months to update the website.
Unfortunately, this didn’t go as expected.
Heckin’ Unicorn recounted: “Moments later, however, he called us back and told us that his colleague wasn’t sure if “management is willing to change” their website and guidelines.”
“By the end of the second call, it wasn’t clear if TAFEP was going to update their website and guidelines at all,” said the company in its post.
Heckin’ Unicorn went on to comment that it was “strange” how quickly TAFEP is willing to take action against an organisation that appeared to discriminate against non-LGBT folks yet were slow to take a public stance on discrimination against LGBT folks.
“We hope that TAFEP can stand by the words of their representative, and update their website and guidelines to explicitly mention sexual orientation and gender identity,” the company asserted.
Heckin’ Unicorn added that the manager it spoke to was “very polite and patient”, and acknowledged that he was “just doing his job”.
“But we don’t appreciate TAFEP’s seemingly disingenuous ‘protection’ of sexual orientation and gender identity”, the company remarked.
“We are all watching and waiting.”
This is the second incident pertaining to government policy relating to LGBT folks this month, following the recent protest by a group of students and supporters outside the Ministry of Education (MOE) building 26 January against the discrimination against LGBT students, particularly in light of the case of an 18-year-old junior college student who claimed that the Ministry had interfered with her hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
TOC has reached out to TAFEP for comment.