Archive for the 'Workplace Equality' Category

Pro-gay U.S. firms face hurdles in antigay Russia

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

The company has a rock-solid policy of “inclusion and diversity” in the workplace and numerous LGBT employees, and it was one of the prominent Bay Area firms to sign amicus briefs in favor of overturning Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It also has interests in Russia, including a $1 billion investment to help the country develop its own Silicon Valley. Last week, the company, Cisco Systems, opened the Cisco Experience Center at the site of Russia’s embryonic Silicon Valley outside Moscow, “marking an important milestone in Cisco’s multiyear investment in sustainable innovation within the Russian Federation,” a senior executive blogged.

But Russia has become a darker place since Cisco committed the money in 2010 – jailing perceived opponents, spitting in the face of America and escalating attacks on gay rights.

In the past year, the regime of President Vladimir Putin has banned same-sex couples from adopting children, violently broken up gay pride parades and, last month, outlawed as “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” the espousal of values Cisco and other U.S. companies operating in Russia embrace.

That is already an issue here. Demonstrations against its antigay laws have been held in several American cities, including outside the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. Boycotts of Russian vodka and the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi are being pushed, and state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is calling on California’s public pension funds to cease investing in Russian enterprises.

Even President Obama, annoyed with Putin for granting asylum to National Security Agency leader Edward Snowden, has stepped into the fray. “I’ve been very clear that when you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country,” he toldJay Leno last week.

Referring to the Sochi Games, Obama said, “I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.”

U.S. groups speak out

But Russia can. Under the law, gay or “pro-gay” foreigners face up to 14 days in jail and expulsion from the country. Several Russian parliamentarians said they believe the law will be enforced during the Games, as it was last month against four Dutch tourists who were jailed for filming a forum organized by a local human rights group. Presumably employees of U.S. companies who are suspected of passing on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” in Russia could face the same threat.

Calls to boycott the Games have been received negatively, including by the Russian LGBT Network, which called on the international community to “speak up, not walk out.”

Some U.S. groups are speaking up. They include the Council for Global Equality in Washington, whose lawyers in Moscow wrote a memo in June concluding that the laws “will directly impact multinational companies operating in Russia who have clear and well-publicized LGBT equality policies” – such as Cisco and several other Bay Area and American companies.

“Their willingness to transfer LGBT individuals to work in Russia will be an issue given the likely concern of such companies about placing LGBT individuals in Russia and the concerns of such individuals about living in Russia,” the memo states.

“It could also give rise to concern by the companies about the manner in which they publicize their LGBT policies, as well as influencing their recruitment decisions, the application of their stated LGBT policies in Russia.”

If Russian courts’ rulings on similar laws are any precedent, appeals against the provisions will probably go nowhere. International courts could see things differently, although the memo doesn’t speculate what effect they might have. ( sfg.ly/15SD7Un).

Cisco, which has dozens of engineers and other employees in Russia – with more coming to staff the innovation center – had no comment. So it’s difficult to know how aware the company is of the issue, if it’s in contact with its lawyers, or if it is formulating a response.

“We’ve had interest from companies in our memo, but what they do with it when they kick it up the chain, we don’t have a handle on,” said Julie Dorf, senior adviser at the Council of Global Equality. “It’s hard to get a read on what they’re doing behind the scenes.”

Inconsistent approach

But, Dorf said, it’s a tough issue for corporations that have operations in countries with different views on equality than their own. “We would like corporations who are positively pro-equality in the workplace to extend their policies globally, without exception,” she said, “but it’s not a simple act. There are enormous differences, especially with host countries that don’t share the same values.

“The vast majority of multinational corporations that support full LGBT equality in the workplace in the United States are inconsistent about their application of those principles and policies abroad,” she said.

54 groups to Obama: Time to act on ENDA order

barack_obama_insert_c_washington_blade_by_michael_key-4

Photo: Michael Key. Washington Blade.

Repost from the Washington Blade

A coalition of 54 groups is ramping up pressure for President Obama to sign a heavily sought-after executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

In a letter dated Feb. 20, a coalition of LGBT advocacy group and other civil rights organizations — such as those representing the black and Latino community — call on Obama to take administrative action to protecting workers from anti-LGBT workplace bias.

“Over the past 70 years, both Republican and Democratic presidents have used executive orders to ensure that taxpayer money is not wasted on workplace discrimination or harassment based on characteristics such as race, gender, and religion,” the letter states. “These contractor policies exist to this day, and they cover almost one in four jobs throughout the United States. It is now time for an executive order ensuring the same workplace protections for LGBT Americans.” Continue Reading.

Read the Letter: Federal contractor EO POTUS sign-on letter 2-20-13

News from the Council for Global Equality

Read the November 2010 newsletter from the Council for Global Equality.

We’ve been busy this fall promoting a U.S. foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. I hope you’ll read more about our work and join us in promoting global equality today.

  • Council Celebrates Two Years of Advocacy
  • Council Meets with Under Secretary of State Maria Otero
  • US Record on LGBT Rights Reviewed at UN Human Rights Council
  • Council Facilitates Amsterdam Summit of National LGBT Groups
  • Council Raises LGBT Hate Crimes and Discrimination at Human Rights Conference in Warsaw
  • Are Multinational Corporations Caring More About Their LGBT Employees Around the World?

Are Multinational Corporations Caring More About Their LGBT Employees Around the World?

With a record number of global-themed workshops, this year’s out and equal summit marked rising concern for corporate America’s attention to equality in the workplace abroad. Fourteen sessions—ranging from corporate equality in Hong Kong, India, and London to helping employee resource group leaders extend their memberships globally—became known as the “international track” at this year’s Summit. Some of this growing attention to global issues may be simply the fact that so many employee resource groups have accomplished their main task of securing equal benefits in the workplace here in the United States, and are looking for a new issue to tackle. But others at the Summit seemed to believe that corporations are preparing for the upturn in the economy and redoubling their efforts to retain and recruit the best talent. The talent argument is the number one business case for equal workplaces for LGBT people here and abroad.

The Council for Global Equality facilitated one information-rich workshop on expanding equality in the global workplace, which can be viewed here. The most recent global equality findings from the Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) were analyzed at this session. Although not part of how HRC currently scores corporations, the annual CEI collects information from over 600 American corporations about their policies and practices in overseas operations. Of the U.S.-based multinational corporations, only 54% currently extend their benefits to same-sex partners in all locations around the world. And only 52% have both sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies globally. Clearly, our collective work is not done.

Many of the questions that were raised in the “international track” were from employees in search of policy examples and best practical stories from other companies (often their own competitors) about how to overcome the challenges of becoming fully equal workplaces. For example, a company seeking to extend their “global” equality provisions to the real practice of equal benefits provision might need to convince a third-party insurance provider in a foreign country to cover same-sex partners.

Stephen Golden from Goldman Sachs gave a wonderful example of that company leaning hard on insurance providers in Japan to extend their health coverage to same-sex partners, which had a trickle-out effect on the entire financial services industry. The acts of one courageous company can truly impact LGBT employees in an entire sector or country. Other stories were more sobering, such as a lesbian employee of a major energy-sector company arriving in China to relocate with her partner, only to have the same-sex partner turned away at the border by Chinese immigration authorities.

While there are still many unmet challenges on the road to improve the workplaces for LGBT employees globally, the tone of this year’s Summit was optimistic and dynamic. The trend is clearly heading towards safer and more equal working environments for all employees everywhere. And with the increasing and combined efforts of employee group leadership, diversity and human resource management, Senior Executives and CEOs, as well as outside advocates and watchdog groups, we can help ensure that Corporate America stands for equality and fairness for LGBT people abroad.


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