Walmart Confirms Expansion of Non-Discrimination Policy, UUA Pushes for Gender Identity Addition
Post by Tim Brennan, treasurer of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Glenn C. Farley, co-chair of the UUA Committee on Socially Responsible Investing.
In each of the past five years, the Unitarian Universalist Association has filed a shareholder resolution asking Walmart to add Gender Identity or Expression to its non-discrimination policy. Last week we were notified by Walmart’s Office of Diversity that they were adopting this policy and were disseminating it throughout their network of stores and distribution centers. This is a big step towards justice for Walmart employees and perhaps even more importantly, an example to other companies. Walmart is currently the largest company in the Fortune 500 and the largest employer in the nation and, for that matter, the world. So how Walmart operates can profoundly affect corporate policies and practices worldwide, for better or for worse.
Federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and state laws vary widely. Therefore, protections by employers are extremely important. While more companies each year add gender identity or expression as a protected class, most companies are still lagging. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2010 69% of the Fortune 100 and 46% of the Fortune 500 had non-discrimination policies that include gender identity or expression. This is up from 11% and 5% respectively in 2003. Fully 39% of the Fortune 500 offer transgender-inclusive health insurance benefits, up from 1% in 2004. We hope that the Walmart example will spur additional companies to become more inclusive.
Other companies have changed as well. The UUA’s resolutions asking for non-discrimination polices on gender identity or expression resulted in policy change at Lowes, Home Depot, Travelers Insurance, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Verizon, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have so far refused, but our campaign continues.
This is one small, but significant step for Walmart. Yet the company still has a long way to go to improve its treatment of employees. Just recently it was announced that the company’s health plan would become more expensive and less widely available. Advocates both within and outside of the company must continue to push for improvement.
The UUA’s shareholder advocacy program is just one expression of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign – our vision is of a world in which no one is dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence because of their identities.
We know that lasting change only happens in coalition and collaboration. In our broad shareholder advocacy work towards inclusion, anti-oppression and non-violence, we will continue to do our part to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.
On November 20, we encourage you to stand on the side of love as we observe the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), honoring and remembering those murdered through hate and ignorance.