Valeant’s Shake-up

It’s been a tough year for Valeant Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, the Cana­dian com­pany that sent Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Michael Pear­son pack­ing on March 21. Shares have fallen about 90 per­cent since mid-au­gust, when Bernie San­ders and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Eli­jah Cum­mings (D

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got a per­fect score for the first time. Younger work­ers, no mat­ter what their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, want to be part of a di­verse work­force, Lyons says.

The de­ci­sion to of­fer do­mes­tic part­ner ben­e­fits in 2014 was a big mo­ment in Hormel’s evo­lu­tion, as was last year’s ad­di­tion of trans­gen­der health in­sur­ance cov­er­age—the ben­e­fit pushed the com­pany’s score up to the top. As the ef­forts pro­gressed, there was less push­back, though at least one trans­gen­der em­ployee ex­pe­ri­enced van­dal­ism, says Katie Lar­son, Hormel’s di­rec­tor for hu­man re­sources. Work­ing one-on-one with em­ploy­ees go­ing through gen­der tran­si­tions, she says, has helped her to bet­ter un­der­stand the chal­lenges they con­front. “Once you put a face to an is­sue, change hap­pens,” Lar­son says.

That’s a key first step, says Deena Fi­das, di­rec­tor of HRC’S work­place equal­ity pro­gram. “There’s of­ten just a void, or lack of vis­i­bil­ity, for a com­pany’s LGBT com­mu­nity,” she says. With­out that vis­i­bil­ity, “you’re not go­ing to get fo­cused re­sources or at­ten­tion from hu­man re­sources.” Change is eas­ier to im­ple­ment the more a com­pany sup­ports LGBT work­ers and the more vis­i­ble those work­ers are.

Ea­ton, based in Ohio, a state with no an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion laws, started work on its HRC score three years ago, when it, too, earned just 15 points, ac­cord­ing to Cathy Medeiros, the auto parts maker’s first vice pres­i­dent for in­clu­sion and di­ver­sity. When she was ap­pointed in 2012, Medeiros says, she’d never heard of the in­dex. Anne Geary, a gay IT pro­ject man­ager, was among the em­ploy­ees who brought the low score to Medeiros’s at­ten­tion. Geary reached out to HRC to dis­cuss the in­dex and ways to im­prove its poli­cies. With Carolyn Chev­er­ine, an Ea­ton se­nior at­tor­ney, Medeiros worked to add new in­sur­ance cov­er­age and clar­i­fied poli­cies re­gard­ing LGBT work­ers. “We deal with it,” Medeiros says of the re­sis­tance she still gets. “It’s part of the jour­ney.”

Min­nesota is one of 22 states that in­clude sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion among the cat­e­gories pro­tected from dis­crim­i­na­tion. But Hormel has 11 man­u­fac­tur­ing plants and 14 sales of­fices in states that don’t of­fer sim­i­lar rights. That’s led a com­pa­ny­wide LGBT re­source group, Hproud & Al­lies, to start dis­cus­sions with hu­man re­sources in all of its of­fices about the chal­lenges some work­ers face. Of­fice trans­fers, for ex­am­ple, can be a source of ten­sion for gay work­ers who are be­ing asked to move to an of­fice in a state with fewer pro­tec­tions.

Hproud, with about 130 mem­bers, has monthly tele­con­fer­ences for em­ploy­ees in scat­tered lo­ca­tions to join in the dis­cus­sions. Hormel will soon start what it calls an am­bas­sador pro­gram to help iden­tify LGBT work­ers in re­mote places who can or­ga­nize and run events like a re­cent Na­tional Com­ing Out Day held in Austin— work­ers across the com­pany joined in via Facetime on ipads. The ini­tia­tives have clearly picked up steam. As Lyons says of Hormel’s HRC score: “Our jour­ney from 15 to 20 points up to 70 was more dif­fi­cult than go­ing up to 100.”

En­sur­ing Hormel’s mes­sage is con­sis­tent through­out the com­pany is im­por­tant, says An­dre Goodlett, cor­po­rate man­ager for di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion. “We fo­cus on be­hav­ior, not the be­liefs,” he says. “I can have some im­pact on your be­hav­ior while you’re a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the com­pany. You can ei­ther par­tic­i­pate in those be­hav­iors or not. That’s a sim­ple choice.” �Jeff Green

The bot­tom line Heart­land com­pa­nies like Hormel and Ea­ton are ex­pand­ing ben­e­fit pro­grams to at­tract em­ploy­ees—in­clud­ing LGBT work­ers.

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