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Supporting LGBT Workplace Equality is Good For Business

President ObamaThe Council for Global Equality welcomes the President’s leadership in signing a new Executive Order to protect LGBT workers in the United States.  Now it’s time to apply those same principles to U.S. government contractors and grantees operating overseas to ensure that U.S. government funds are never used to finance discrimination anywhere in the world.

Learn more about the Executive Order.

FACT SHEET: Taking Action to Support LGBT Workplace Equality is Good For Business

America is built on the fundamental promise that if you work hard, and play by the rules, you can get ahead. But today, millions of Americans in most states in the country go to work every day fearing that they could lose their jobs simply because of who they are or who they love. No current federal law adequately protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers from employment discrimination. This is completely contrary to our values as Americans – and it’s also bad for business.

President Obama declared 2014 a year of action – working with Congress where they’re willing, but acting where he can when they refuse to take action. As part of this commitment to expanding opportunity for hardworking Americans, today, the President will sign an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment.

At a critical time for our nation’s economy, we need all of our workers to be focused on making the most of their talent, skill, and ingenuity, rather than worrying about losing their job due to discrimination. The economy functions best when workers are matched to the jobs with the best fit, maximizing their productivity, increasing wages and helping the bottom line for businesses. Discrimination is not just wrong, it also can keep qualified workers from maximizing their potential to contribute to the strengthening of our economy. For decades, companies have found that benefits and inclusive, flexible, and supportive workplace policies make it easier and more cost effective to recruit, retain, and motivate employees. The same logic applies to extending these basic protections and policies to LGBT workers.

American workers should be judged by one thing only: their ability to get the job done. That’s why the President has long supported federal legislation to explicitly prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. For forty years, Congress has considered various pieces of legislation meant to address LGBT workplace equality. Last November, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support. However, the House has failed to act.

Today’s action is consistent with the President’s commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community, as well as his commitment to expanding opportunity for American workers and strengthening American business. And it is consistent with actions being taken by employers, including many federal contractors, across the country to support workplace equality, because they recognize it improves productivity, reduces turnover and supports their bottom line.

  • Workplace Inequality Still Impacts Millions of LGBT Workers. Today, only 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws explicitly protecting LGBT workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and no federal law adequately protects LGBT workers from being fired because of who they are or who they love. According to surveys and studies, more than four in ten lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have experienced some form of employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation at some point in their lives, and 90% of transgender employees have experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • Employers Are Taking Action on Their Own to Support Workplace Equality – Because They Recognize It Is In Their Interest: According to an analysis of 36 research studies by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, “LGBT-supportive policies and workplace climates are linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, and improved health outcomes among LGBT employees.”
  • Fortune 500 Companies Support LGBT Workplace Equality. Most of America’s major companies know that workplace equality is important to staying competitive and retaining their best talent, and as a result, nondiscrimination policies are good for business. 91% of Fortune 500 companies already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation; and 61% already prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
  • Small Businesses Support LGBT Workplace Equality. According to research conducted by Small Business Majority, six in ten small business owners believe that employment nondiscrimination laws improve their bottom line by helping employers attract the best and brightest employees. And of small business owners who have adopted nondiscrimination policies to protect LGBT workers, 86% report that nondiscrimination policies cost them “nothing or next to nothing,” 2% said such policies had a small but significant cost, and none said they had a substantial cost.
  • Many Federal Contractors Already Have Policies on LGBT Workplace Equality. Of the largest 50 federal contractors, which represent nearly half of all federal contracting dollars, 86% prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and 61% prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In addition, the five top federal contractors, which receive nearly a quarter of all federal contracting dollars, already bar discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The American Public Supports LGBT Workplace Equality. A recent national survey of 1,200 registered voters found that 63% of those surveyed favor a federal law that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination. When asked specifically about LGBT nondiscrimination in federal contracting, another poll found that 73% of those surveyed favor such policies.
  • States and Local Jurisdictions Support LGBT Workplace Equality. Over the last several years, there has been significant progress in moving LGBT inclusive non-discrimination laws through statehouses and city halls across the nation. Since 2011, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Nevada have added gender identity to their existing employment non-discrimination laws. Today, 18 states and the District of Columbia have inclusive non-discrimination laws, and over 200 cities and counties – from small towns like Bozeman, Montana and Vicco, Kentucky to large cities like Houston, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia – prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Nine of the ten most populous cities in the country already have these protections in place.
  • Diverse Faith Communities Support LGBT Workplace Equality. A diverse range of religious communities  and organizations support workplace protections, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries; and the Union of Reform Judaism. Majorities of Christian denominations polled support workplace protections, including 76% of Catholics, 75% of white mainline Protestants, 61% of minority Protestants, and 59% of white evangelical Protestants. Another poll shows that 74% of born-again Christians favor LGBT workplace protections.

Additional Information about President Obama’s Executive Order

Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, prohibits federal contractors from discriminating “against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” President Obama’s Executive Order will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories.

President Obama’s Executive Order does not allow for any exemption beyond the one added by Executive Order 13279, issued by President George W. Bush, which permits religiously affiliated contractors to favor individuals of a particular religion when making employment decisions, by specifying that Executive Order 11246, “shall not apply to a Government contractor or subcontractor that is a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society, with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities. Such contractors and subcontractors are not exempted or excused from complying with the other requirements contained in this Order.” In addition, under the First Amendment, religious entities are permitted to make employment decisions about their ministers as they see fit.

Executive Order 11246 governs only federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year. It does not affect grants and President Obama’s Executive Order does not impact the administration of federal grants. The Order is administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). As part of these duties, OFCCP conducts compliance reviews, receives complaints from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against, and provides technical assistance to contractors regarding their contractual obligations. More information can be found at www.dol.gov/ofccp.

Executive Order 11478, issued by President Nixon, bars discrimination against federal employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age, and was amended by Executive Order 13087, issued by President Clinton, to include sexual orientation.

President Obama’s Executive Order will add gender identity to the list of protected categories.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal agencies already apply Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity as a form of sex discrimination. The President believes it is important to explicitly prohibit – in both Executive Action and in legislation – discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

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.

Corporate America’s Response to Homophobia Abroad

Coke Zero Live on the WaterfrontWhen a company facilitates public expressions of homophobia – even inadvertently – what response is it obligated to take?

That question has confronted the Coca-Cola Company since late April, when a concert it co-sponsored in Jamaica became an outlet for homophobic rantings by Sizzla, one of Jamaica’s most prominent reggae musicians. Sizzla’s history of anti-gay lyrics is well-documented and well-known; his performance in Montego Bay, in keeping with that tradition, included the performance of a song that calls for the murder of gay people.

Coca-Cola, of course, has a commendable score of 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index over many years, and no one has charged Coke with discriminating against its LGBT employees in Jamaica or elsewhere. But that, of course, isn’t the issue.

What happened in Jamaica was, on one level, a stunning display of professional error. In the largest sense, the local Coca-Cola bottling company that signed up to sponsor the waterfront event clearly failed to do any due diligence on Sizzla. Nor apparently did the company include, in its sponsorship agreement, any clause outlining its expectations regarding the performances it underwrote. Heads may or may not roll over these basic professional failures, but surely the waterfront fiasco could have been avoided had the company put in place even the most rudimentary professional safeguards against these mistakes. Continue reading ‘Corporate America’s Response to Homophobia Abroad’


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