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October 18, 2010

 

DiNapoli Urges Corporations to Offer Equal Protections

Letter Asks Firms to Include Sexual Orientation, Gender Bias in Anti-Bias Policies


In response to a shareholder letter from New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, ten companies have agreed to formally adopt policies against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. DiNapoli, as trustee of the $124.8 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, sent letters to more than 130 Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies asking the firms to articulate explicit policies to protect employees against discrimination.

“Every employee deserves dignity and respect in the workplace,” DiNapoli said. “Part of my fiduciary duty is to examine every issue that might affect the value of the Fund’s holdings. Companies without an anti-discrimination policy risk limiting their labor pool, facing regulatory penalties and perhaps even litigation from workers. The large majority of Fortune 1000 companies provide protections against this form of discrimination. A growing number also protect workers from gender identity-related bias. It’s time for other corporations to catch up and clearly express their commitment to fairness and equality.”

DiNapoli’s letter asked recipients whether their existing non-discrimination policies explicitly included bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. For firms that did not have protective policies, DiNapoli asked that they formally prohibit those types of discrimination in the workplace. Pool Corporation, Packaging Corporation of America and Cameron Corporation responded to DiNapoli’s request by adding a ban on sexual orientation discrimination to their policies. Seven other companies, including PolyOne Corporation, Sanderson Farms, Total System Services, Inc., Beckman Coulter, Plains Exploration & Production Company, Valmont and Nextel Corporation (NII Holdings), have agreed to add bans on both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination to their workplace rules.

DiNapoli has taken a leadership role in eradicating sexual orientation discrimination. In February 2008, DiNapoli signed an executive order prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the Office of the State Comptroller. In September 2007, he directed the New York State and Local Retirement System to recognize same-sex marriages wherever they are performed. This policy guarantees that all surviving spouses have access to certain retirement benefits, including accidental death benefits awarded in certain situations and a cost-of-living adjustment to monthly pension payments. In October 2004, the Retirement System recognized same-sex marriages conducted in Canada under the principle of comity, a legal doctrine that has been followed by New York State for many years.


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