By:  Amy Epstein Gluck

As Montell Jordan sang in the 90s—”this is how we do it.”

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Thanks to my partner Ken Thompson for finding me this awesome graphic!

Anyway, need a good example of a corporate culture founded on equal treatment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity?

I’ve got one for you:  powerhouse Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”).  Yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation released its 2017 Corporate Equality Index— a global benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality and inclusion.

The Index listed Dow, for the twelfth year in a row, as having a 100% rating.

A slew of other companies put in the effort to get a 100% on this test.  Let’s name a few:  Starbucks, PayPal, Pandora, Nike, Netflix, LinkedIn, Macy’s, Hasbro, GameStop, Dropbox, CVS, Citigroup, AMEX.

Dow: This is How They Do It

What’s so special about Dow?

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According to one Business Wire report, the company:

  • has its own employee resource group for LGBT employees sponsored by GLAD, which is the largest of eight diversity networks within the company and more than 3,000 employees participating;
  • has offered equal benefits to same-sex partners for over a decade;
  • has best-in-class transgender policies and health benefits that are aligned to the standards of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a professional and educational organization devoted to transgender health;
  • has been a longstanding advocate for state and federal legislation protecting LGBT people from policies that seek to create nonexclusive environments; and
  • works with other companies and local businesses to increase equality in those workplaces.

Dow fosters an inclusive work environment, which translates to less attrition and increased profitability.  As I wrote about previously here, studies show that supportive, inclusive LGBT policies augment a company’s performance overall and lead to increased profitability as well.

Further, these policies make sense as times and laws change.  In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the Obergefell decision, so isn’t it time to grant these unions the same health benefits heterosexual couples enjoy?

Title VII Prohibitions

Currently, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.  The EEOC continues to argue that discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity IS inherently based on sex. To me, this is a no-brainer and is akin to pregnancy discrimination. Of course discriminating against a pregnant person is based on that person’s sex because the discrimination only affects one type of employee—a woman! As sex discrimination, Title VII prohibits this type of discrimination.  Same reasoning applies to those who are homosexual or transgender—I mean, what else is said discrimination based on if not that person’s sex/sexual preference/sexual identity?!

As my partner Rich Cohen wrote about yesterday and back in August, now the influential 7th Circuit is taking a long, hard look at this issue. As he also reported, and as EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum told reporters after the oral argument: “Different judges discussed different theories, but they all led to one conclusion: Sexual orientation discrimination always involves gender. It is sex discrimination.”

Employer Takeaways:

Getting back to Dow and the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, let’s see what you can do as an employer to a) get on this list; b) avoid scrutiny by the EEOC; c) became a workplace known for its equal treatment of all employees regardless of sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity):

  1. Implement inclusive, anti-discrimination corporate policies that specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in all areas of employment (hiring, promotions, firing transfer);
  1. Provide equal benefits to same-sex couples, especially health insurance;
  2. Have contractor or vendor nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity;
  3. Offer health insurance coverage that includes transgender treatments;
  4. Have an employee resource group that your company expressly supports.

Prohibiting sex discrimination based on orientation and gender identity may not yet be federal law, but it soon very well may be. Plus, and not to proselytize it’s the right thing to do.