Post submitted Beck Bailey, HRC Deputy Director of Employee Engagement 

There is always a lot of talk in our community about the role of corporations in Pride events. Some feel Pride has become too commercialized, while others see the participation of employers and their employee resource groups as a measure of increasing protections, support and acceptance in America’s workplaces.

In case you missed it, Burger King recently stepped forward to celebrate LGBT Pride in San Francisco with the release of the “Proud Whopper,” a limited edition version of its Whopper burger wrapped in rainbow packaging with “we are all the same inside” inscribed on the inside. The accompanying YouTube video highlights the ad campaign’s intention to give something back to the LGBT community by building awareness for our shared humanity.  The company also donated all sales of the burger to the Burger King McLaore Foundation for scholarships benefiting graduating LGBT high school seniors.

Consumers are lighting up social media with mixed reactions. Many LGBT people feel inspired and honored by the ad while the company is also getting a fair share of negative attention from anti-LGBT consumers on its Facebook page

As a transgender person who also works directly with employers to improve their policies and practices of workplace inclusion, I experienced mixed emotions with the Burger King ad. Burger King has a score of 55 on the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) – a score that reflects, among other things, a lack of employment protections on the basis of gender identity as well as a lack of base level health care coverage for transgender employees.  For comparison, other chains such as Yum! brands (parent of KFC, Taco Bell and others) and McDonald's have both implemented gender identity protections. We are very hopeful that as Burger King fills out this year's CEI survey, we will see the spirit of this ad translate into meaningful policy change in the upcoming 2015 CEI due out this fall.  

While Burger King’s gesture is nice and the scholarship fund is incredibly welcome, workplace equality in the form of policies, practices and benefits should be a fundamental focus of fair-minded businesses and particularly those companies that want to participate in Pride events and our combined LGBT market power. 

Want to know more about the policies and practices of the brands you support? Check out “Buying for Workplace Equality: A Guide to Companies, Products and Services that Support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Workplace Inclusion” or download the handy iPhone or Android apps for reference on-the-go.

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