By Michelle Dominguez, proud teammate at Social Justice Partners Los Angeles

I’ve been seeking a justice-centered workplace where I can be my authentic, Queer, Trans, Latinx self for my whole career. Like many, I’ve been exploited as an employee and I need a workplace where I am represented, gendered appropriately, and can thrive — what Social Justice Partners Los Angeles terms a “liberatory workplace,” where everyone feels belonging and freedom. 

Then, I find a job prospect that really excites me and gives me hope! Here are the seven signs from the job search that give me the good tingles of a liberatory workplace:

1. A Positive Recommendation from a Friend

My beloved community was looking out for me as I set boundaries with exploitative workplaces. A Queer and Trans friend forwards me a job announcement and two Queer friends vouch for the organization’s social justice values. 

Good word-of-mouth is so helpful because I trust my community’s lived experience more than a staff-written website. When an organization uses keywords like “social justice,” it may be a good sign, but it doesn’t prove their actions improve the lives of their QTPOC staff.

2. A Majority Woman of Color Staff with Queer Representation

The job announcement has a photo of the current team. I do what many of us without the privilege of representation do, and scan the faces to count for gender presentation and People of Color. I know it can be problematic since I cannot determine someone’s race or gender by looking at them, and it’s also a learned survival tactic. 

From the scan, I read the staff as predominantly feminine-presenting and of Color, which excites me because it’s what I have been searching for. I also read the staff bios and note multiple staff who have done LGBTQ advocacy (and are presumably LGBTQ themselves). Finally, somewhere I can belong and am not the only one! 

3. A Transparent Living Wage

Usually, job announcements have a wide pay range or no transparent wage at all. This job announcement states outright the pay per year—and it’s a living wage! 

Our sector’s legal status is defined by operating for public good rather than profit, but it’s “non-profit” not “non-wage.” We need to address the economic conditions we seek to change in our communities from within our organizations. These economic conditions disproportionately harm Queer and Trans People of Color. We need not only living, but thriving wages.

4. Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

“100% employee costs of medical, dental, vision, and long-term disability insurance.” I read that sentence twice because I have never seen it in a job description before. It is a sign that the organization values healthcare as a human right. Healthcare coverage is especially needed for Trans humans of Color, who are systematically excluded from accessing care.  

Plus, with 100% employee costs covered, it is easier for applicants to calculate the take-home pay for the position. 

If you want to cultivate a liberatory workplace, be transparent with take-home pay so candidates can know whether they can afford applying for and working at your organization. 

5. A Staff Support Stipend 

The job provides funds for employee professional development and wellness. This is a liberatory two-for-one. It signals an organization promotes a learning culture. It also shows the organization understands the interdependence between healthy, whole staff and healthy, whole communities. 

Just like our sector wants simple grant reports and unrestricted funding, employees should also have a simple stipend process with few restrictions and no burdens. Organizations should give staff the autonomy to choose how the stipend will support them best—whether that be paying for a name change, therapy, acupuncture, or more healing modalities not typically covered by Western health care.

6. A Short Application

The application directions include, written in bold: “No cover letter required.” Instead, a short questionnaire asks  really meaningful questions, like: “How do our mission and values resonate with you personally?” and “How would you personally like to grow in your anti-racist practice?” These questions give me the space to share about my whole self, including parts of myself that often get repressed in job search processes. 

The application also asks for my pronouns, which shows the organization’s basic gender literacy and intention for Trans inclusion. 

That’s the type of work environment I need in my life.

7. A Practice of Rest

Another first I’ve read in a job announcement is mention of “quiet time.” Twice a year, the organization sets aside three weeks of rest from external activities. I love this intentional time for team reflection. 

We need more spaciousness in our work so we can focus on healing, quality relationships, and making lasting positive change in our communities.

For a long time, I wondered if a liberatory workplace where I could feel a sense of belonging existed. I was sure there was and that I had not found one yet, and this job announcement is inspiring proof! Since seeing it, I’ve seen more job announcements with mention of 4-day work weeks, childcare support, menstrual leave, building wealth stipends, and more much-needed compensation for our sector. 

I’m hopeful for the day that liberatory workplaces becomes the norm, because I’m tired of feeling like it’s solely on me to retain myself as a Queer and Trans Worker of Color. 

What are some signs you’ve seen of a liberatory workplace?

Michelle Dominguez

Michelle Dominguez

Michelle Dominguez (they/them/elle) is a Queer and Trans Los Angeles native born to Colombian immigrants. After a decade-long career in higher education student affairs, they switched sectors in 2021 to join the team at Social Justice Partners Los Angeles. What brings Michelle joy? Quality time with loved ones, mindfulness, audiobooks, vegan chocolate desserts, and Disney magic. You can find Michelle on LinkedIn and tip them via Venmo @MMissy003.