Retail giant Wal-Mart has added gender identity and gender expression provisions to its nondiscrimination policy, meaning that trans employees will now be better protected from unfair treatment while working for the store chain.
The protections include gender identity and gender expression said Phillip Keene, a company spokesperson.
Keene did not confirm when the new policy went into effect, only that the change was made “several weeks ago.”
“We’ve had a strong anti-discrimination policy for a long time,” said Keene.
Indeed, sexual orientation protections have been a part of the company’s “Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy” for some time now. However, Wal-Mart continues to rate poorly among LGBT groups, and wider groups, for its perceived hostile attitude to its workers.
In fact, Wal-Mart scored just 40 out of a possible 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2011 Corporate Equality Index which marked Wal-Mart down, among other reasons, due to a lack of gender identity protections.
The retail chain has also been criticized for stocking a children’s book that claims parents can help their children overcome homosexuality through religious counselling.
The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York issued a statement at the start of the year opposing a new Wal-Mart in NYC, saying: ”Walmart’s values are not our values and they are certainly not New York’s. Stonewall Democratic Club is committed to building a city that is free from intolerance towards all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people — a city that remains Walmart free.”
That said, Wal-Mart has used its nondiscrimination policy to protect LGB workers in the past, most notably in a case where Wal-Mart went before the 9th Circuit to defend sacking an employee who maintained it was her right to tell her lesbian co-worker that she was going to hell and wasn’t “right in the head” per, the woman said, her religious beliefs. You can read more on that here.
The addition of gender identity and expression protections has met with praise from Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign.
Solmonese welcomed the change in a statement (via the Advocate): ”What matters in the workplace is how you do your job, not your gender identity or sexual orientation. As the nation’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart shows that doing the right thing is also good for business. We urge them to continue to move forward by ensuring all of their LGBT employees receive equal benefits.”
Currently there exists no federal legislation that protects LGBTs in the workplace, leaving them vulnerable in LGBT-rights hostile states. The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) could change that. Find out more about ENDA here.