Press

Wal-Mart Bans Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

Date: 
July 03, 2003

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today congratulates the Equality Project partners on their two years of work to amend Wal-Mart's equal employment opportunity policy to include banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Task Force calls on Wal-Mart to show all of its employees and customers that it stands for true equality - by including gender identity in its non-discrimination policy as well. Inclusion of gender identity would ban discrimination against transgender people as well as lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Pride Foundation (and NGLTF) Board Member Marsha Botzer said, "Wal-Mart's recognition of sexual orientation is an important first step toward equality. I look forward to continuing our discussion and eagerly anticipate the day when they will also include gender identity in their non-discrimination policies."

See the full text of the Pride foundation release below:

Pride Foundation Contacts:
Zack Wright (206) 714-1451
Marsha Botzer (206) 601-8942

WAL-MART AGREES TO BAR DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION AS A RESULT OF SHAREHOLDER CAMPAIGN

July 1, 2003, Seattle, WA: Equality Project partners Pride Foundation, Walden Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management and ISIS Asset Management announced today that Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) will amend its equal employment opportunity policy and explicitly bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. Wal-Mart's decision is in response to nearly two years of discussion between the company and the Equality Project partners that represent almost $100 billion under management.

With this development, Wal-Mart, the world's largest private employer with 1.3 million associates worldwide, joins 318 other Fortune 500 companies in protecting their lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees. Federal law allows discrimination based on sexual orientation for private employment and only 13 states and the District of Columbia currently ban it.

The shareholders began meeting with Wal-Mart in September 2001, asking them to include both sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies. On June 27, 2003 Pride Foundation received a letter from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc stating that the company has amended its Equal Employment Opportunity policy to include sexual orientation.

Wal-Mart's move symbolizes a dramatic change in corporate America. Fortune 500 companies are recognizing that to remain competitive in the marketplace they have to have a written commitment to protecting all of their workers. Wal-Mart's adoption of the nondiscrimination policy is also notable, as the Equality Project partners did not have to file a shareholder resolution with the company. Unlike other companies such as ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart chose to build a private and productive dialogue with shareholders.

The adoption of this inclusive policy is important given the recent Supreme Court ruling, Lawrence v. Texas, that acknowledged the profound cultural change in America in regards to sexual orientation. Wal-Mart's policy will protect its one million U.S. employees, which the company proudly claims reflects America's demographics. Wal-Mart, based in Arkansas, which lacks any jurisdiction with sexual orientation protection laws; its decision strongly signals that protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual employees is now standard business practice.

"This change helps ensure that Wal-Mart's gay and lesbian employees will be judged on their merits, not on their sexual orientation. The inclusion of sexual orientation in Wal-Mart's nondiscrimination policy is the only example of fair treatment for gays and lesbians that some people will ever see, particularly in rural, more conservative areas." Zack Wright, Pride Foundation representative.

"Wal-Mart's recognition of sexual orientation is an important first step toward equality. I look forward to continuing our discussion and eagerly anticipate the day when they will also include gender identity in their non-discrimination policies," said Marsha Botzer a Pride Foundation Board Member.

"Last week the Supreme Court struck down laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians in their own homes, and this week America's largest private employer., Wal-Mart, acted to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace. We're heartened to see two such powerful institutions recognize that discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation isn't good public policy, and it isn't good business," said Steve Lippman, Senior Social Research Analyst, Trillium Asset Management

"As investors, we know this policy is good business. Over 90% of Fortune 100 companies and a majority of Fortune 500 companies have already made this sensible change. Strategic benefits include hiring from the widest talent pool, and improving employee morale, productivity and retention. This will help Wal-Mart avoid falling behind its competition," said Elizabeth Elliott McGeveran, Vice Presidentat ISIS Asset Management.

"As the largest private employer in the world, Wal-Mart's decision provides an especially important precedent for other corporations. We urge the few major companies that lack inclusive policies to follow Wal-Mart's lead," stated Kenneth Scott, portfolio manager at Walden Asset Management, the socially responsive investment division of United States Trust Company of Boston. "Unfortunately, ExxonMobil stands increasingly isolated in its stubborn refusal to make its policies fully inclusive. Wal-Mart's decision also sends a strong, positive message to leading Arkansas employers, such as Tyson Foods and ALLTEL, that have yet to adopt inclusive policies."

For additional information please contact:
Elizabeth Elliott McGeveran, Vice President, ISIS Asset Management 617.426.4345 (w) 617.308.8669 (c)
Kenneth Scott, portfolio manager at Walden Asset Management, the socially responsive investment division of United States Trust Company of Boston. 617-726-7003 (w)
Shelley Alpern, Assistant Vice President, Trillium Asset Management (617) 423-6655 (w) (617) 970.8944 (c)

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.