A Tennessee bill prohibiting local governments from passing anti-discriminatory measures, which the Human Rights Campaign says is “clearly based in anti-LGBT sentiment,” is being publicly opposed by several large corporations, including KPMG and AT&T.
The two companies, Nos. 29 and 4, respectively, on The 2011 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for DiversityÂ® list, spoke out after the bill passed the state legislature and was endorsed by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, of which they and several other companies are members. These companies offer a lesson in how diversity-management leaders publicly support their values. For more on best practices in communicating inclusionary values, click here.
The controversy erupted late last week, when AMERICAblog Gay revealed that the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce had supported the bill, which is now on the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam. The bill, which originated with conservative religious groups, was aimed at repealing Nashville’s new ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill passed by the legislature would apply to every city and county in Tennessee.
“This bill is not only discriminatory in nature but also goes against the old Republican value that what’s good for business is good for the country,” says HRC President Joe Solmonese, who warned that the bill could have national implications as well. “The fair-minded people of the Volunteer state are above anti-LGBT discrimination, and so are the major businesses that call Tennessee home.Â We are happy to have these corporations join us in the call for fairness.”
The corporations that have spoken out against the bill include two on the Tennessee Chamber’s board of directors, KPMG and AT&T.
In its statement, KPMG says: “KPMG did not vote to support the Chamber’s adoption of a policy to back this bill, nor do we support the legislation, the effect of which runs counter to KPMG’s policies, core values and our long-standing support for diversity in the workplace in all its forms. KPMG fosters an environment of inclusion and we encourage our employees to share their views, sexual orientation and gender identity, broadening everyone’s awareness of individual differences. We are proud of our record and the fact that DiversityInc recently named KPMG the top firm for LGBT employees.” KPMG was No. 1 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees this year.
AT&T issued this statement: “AT&T does not support any laws or efforts that are discriminatory. AT&T does support the principals [sic] of ensuring that state and local laws are consistent, which is the stated purpose of HB 600/SB 632. However, the bill has become implicated in efforts to erode the rights of the gay community, which we do not support. AT&T has a long history and longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and its policies address diversity in areas including race, creed, religion, sex, and particularly sexual orientation. In fact, DiversityInc has ranked AT&T in its Top 10 Companies for LGBT employees (in 2006, 2009 and 2010), and we were honored to be recognized as one of the ‘2010 Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality’ by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. We are proud of our commitment to this community.”
Whirlpool Corp., No. 49 in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, released the following statement: “Whirlpool Corporation’s future depends on its ability to attract and retain the best people at all levels of the Company. To do that, we strive to create a working environment that values diversity and protects the right of each employee to fair and equitable treatment. It is our policy that employees and applicants for employment will be treated on the basis of equality without regard to sex, age, race, disability, religion, color, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ancestry, and national origin. Whirlpool Corporation opposes this legislation, which runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion. We are reaching out to the Governorâ€™s office and the Chamber to inform them of our position.”
And Pfizer, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies in 2011, released this statement: “Pfizer opposes HB600/SB632. While we support a standard state regulatory environment, this bill has raised concerns about diversity and inclusiveness – values we strongly support. As a result, we oppose this legislation.”
Comcast, which is also one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies in 2011, issued this statement: “At Comcast, we believe it’s simple: discrimination is wrong. Our policy of non-discrimination provides the same protections to all our employees, whether in Tennessee or any other state. Consistent with that, we don’t support Tennessee SB632/HB600. Comcast agrees with the NGLCC [National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce], ‘No one should be judged by his or her sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. In this delicate economic climate, diminishing the rights of LGBT people sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country.'”
Other companies issuing statements opposing the legislation included Nissan, DuPont, Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealth Group, Alcoa, Embraer and FedEx. Named as being on the Tennessee Chamber’s board of directors but not yet having issued a statement opposing the legislation is Caterpillar.Â
DiversityInc will follow up with the companies that have not yet responded and will report more on this at the end of the week.