Equal Time
Progressive Grocer|February 2021
THE FOOD AND CONSUMABLES INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO DEVELOP ITS POLICIES REGARDING THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY.
Bridget Goldschmidt
The day after he was inaugurated, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing every federal agency to affirm that civil rights laws prohibiting sex discrimination likewise extend to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As Mark David Stern reported last month in e-magazine Slate, “This move will extend nondiscrimination protections to millions of LGBTQ people with regard to housing, education, immigration, credit, health care, military service, Peace Corps service, family and medical leave, welfare, criminal justice, law enforcement, transportation, federal grants, and so much more.”

President Biden’s executive order comes amid the growing visibility of the LTBTQ+ community. A 2020 McKinsey report points out: “Hundreds of major consumer brands have become regular sponsors of annual Pride events. A record 206 major corporations signed an amicus brief ... advocating for the Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination. Companies are also increasingly making business-critical decisions about recruitment practices, employee-resource groups and marketing that embrace LGBTQ+ rights.”

Despite these gains, challenges unfortunately remain, particularly in the workplace. “It is still a burden to know that coming out professionally won’t result in spoken or unspoken backlash,” says Ben Conrad, founder and CEO of Plainview, N.Y.-based Five North Chocolate, an LGBTQ+-owned Fair Trade and vegan chocolate business. That backlash could entail lower pay, missed promotions or unfair treatment, adds Conrad.

Even after President Biden’s executive order, which implements the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, under which Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be read to protect LGBTQ+ people, “firings and discrimination will still happen,” asserts Dominique Dick, customer service specialist and LGBTQ+ ambassador co-lead at St. Louis-based Nestlé Purina PetCare. “It doesn’t take much for an employer to conceal the real reason for termination or lack of internal advancement in the organization. This leads to LGBTQ+ community members continuing to hide their true selves.”

“Currently, many LGBTQ workplace issues stem from the fact that there is no federal law that explicitly protects employees from discrimination due to their sexual identity, gender identity or gender expression,” explains Eric Dyson, content marketing specialist at Chicago-based PeopleScout, the world’s largest recruitment process outsourcing provider. “Such protections have come from state laws and federal court cases interpreting the law to protect LGBTQ workers. However, this patchwork of court rulings and state legislation leaves many LGBTQ individuals vulnerable.”

“To engage a new generation of workers and consumers — many of whom choose careers and products based on diversity and inclusion — companies must move beyond public gestures of support for LGBTQ+ issues to create a more positive work experience,” the McKinsey report notes.

Food and Consumables Industry Action

What are companies across the food and consumables industry currently doing in support of their LGBTQ+ employees? One standout leader in this area is Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble.

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