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
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.
Valeant share price