Friday, February 1, 2008

City Pension Funds Seek Ban On LGBT Discrimination In Workplace

A number of observers are often quick to point out New York City leads the country in implementing or (at the very least) progressive policies within the five boroughs and within the companies and corporations with which it works. City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., is one of the local elected officials to which many point in extending these progressive policies. And one such measure came earlier this week with his announcement his office would pressure two dozen Fortune 1000 companies to adopt non-discrimination policies that would inclue sexual orientation and gender identity. This announcement is not new as reported in EDGE New York this week. But it arguably sends a powerful message: New York expects government and business alike to protect its LGBT citizens.

Speaking at a press conference at the LGBT Community Center in lower Manhattan yesterday, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., announced he and the city’s pension funds had called upon two dozen Fortune 1000 companies to adopt non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thompson, a likely 2009 mayoral candidate, said corporate America has a responsibility to protect all of its employees.

"A company can’t reach its full potential if it fails to protect all of its workers," he said. "Corporations that value all of its employees must protect all of its workers."

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, herself a trustee on the New York City Employees Retirement System, echoed Thompson.

"There is no question equal treatment in the workplace is a right," she said. "Large companies in this country should set a standard - they must set a standard."

Transgender activist Melissa Sklarz agreed.

"He [Thompson] knows what I know: LGBT discrimination is bad for business," she said.

The city’s five pension funds, which Thompson oversees, have more than $110 billion in holdings. Eric Indemnity, the Brink’s Company, AK Steel and Synovus Financial Corporations are among the half a dozen companies that have already agreed to adopt the changes in this latest in a series of proposals sent to companies in which the funds have holdings.

These resolutions contain twice as many proposals as the previous proxy season. They include transgender-specific protections for the second time.

Fifty companies have amended their policies to include sexual orientation and/or gender identity but Thompson specifically singled out Exxon Mobil for its repeated failure to respond to these requests.

NYCERS has petitioned the company eight times. And despite increased shareholder support each year, Exxon Mobil has ignored the requests.

"While it is heartening that a number of shareholders agree that Exxon Mobil must take steps to provide equal protections for all employees, it is extremely troubling and downright unacceptable that Exxon Mobil has strongly resisted the call," Thompson said.

He added he and his office will continue to pressure Exxon Mobil to adopt their proposal.

"We’re not going to go away," Thompson said.

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