LGBT Rights and Corporate Support

As 2016 comes to a close, Talent Management 360 is offering detailed insights into some of the year’s top news stories and speculating on how these stories will likely continue to impact talent management in the coming year. The sixth article in our series examines LGBT rights in 2016 and the corporate response.

In 2015, the Supreme Court affirmed that gay marriage would now be legal in all 50 states. As a result, many people in the LGBT community entered 2016 in a jubilant mood and with good reason. Beyond the marriage equality victory, however, as reported on Talent Management 360 in June 2016, there is also now strong evidence that conditions for LGBT workers are  improving.

In 2016, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index reported a record breaking 407 businesses achieving a top rating of 100%. Notably, in their executive summary, the explain, “Even after three significant revisions resulting in more stringent criteria, this is the highest number of 100 percent-rated businesses in the entire history of the CEI. In the first year of the CEI over a decade ago, 13 businesses achieved a top score of 100 percent and in the 2012 CEI, the year of the most recent scorecard updates prior to this 2016 report, just 189 businesses earned top marks.” Not entirely surprisingly, law firms were nearly twice as likely as other businesses to score 100% on the CEI but so where many top-ranked Fortune 500 companies. In 2016, for the first time, 11 of the top 20 Fortune 1000 companies received 100% on the CEI, including Chevron, Apple, Ford Motor Co. and AT&T.

Despite such gains, in 2016, the LGBT community also faced many challenges and tragedies. Perhaps, what was most striking is that they were not alone. From battling transgender discrimination to responding to the tragedy in Orlando, a high percentage of organizations of all kinds also appeared ready and willing to step up and speak out in solidarity.

Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity

First, in April, growing discontent over the right of transgender people to use a public bathroom based on their gender identity rather than biology resulted in PayPal pulling out of North Carolina where the company had plans for an expansion. The company issued the following statement:

The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.  As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte. This decision reflects PayPal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect. These principles of fairness, inclusion and equality are at the heart of everything we seek to achieve and stand for as a company. And they compel us to take action to oppose discrimination…As a company that is committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are, becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable.

Following PayPal’s decision to not set up shop in North Carolina, other companies and individuals (e.g., singers and bands on tour) followed suit. The message coming to the state was loud and clear: If you don’t support LGBT rights, expect to lose jobs, business, visitors and even access to great music. Whether or not the boycott pays off over time is yet to be seen.

The Orlando Attack

In late June 2016, just less than a year after the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, a gay bar in Orlando became the scene of a deadly attack. In the end the shooting left 49 people dead. While not everyone killed was gay, most of the victims were.  For many the attack was a sober reminder of the brutal treatment of the LGBT community in past decades. However, much like the corporate response to the North Carolina ruling, following the shooting at the Pulse night club, hundreds of businesses from Delta to Starbucks stepped up to support the victims and their families and the broader LGBT community.

What’s the take away from 2016? Discrimination against the LGBT community persist. What’s changed is that a growing number of organizations are now working to ensure that their LGBT employees are protected and stepping up to show support for the broader LGBT community too.

December 23, 2016   Updated :December 23, 2016      

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