'Equal treatment is sound business,' said HRC's Winnie Stachelberg.
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign today lauded Toys "R" Us for agreeing to add language to its equal opportunity employment policy prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. It appears likely that the company, ranked 171 in the Fortune 500, will also begin offering domestic partner benefits and including sexual orientation and gender identity issues in their diversity training. If implemented, the company would earn an 86 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index - a tool measuring how equitably companies are treating their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, consumers and investors.
"Equal treatment is sound business," said Vice President of HRC's Foundation Winnie Stachelberg. "Toys 'R' Us becomes the 52nd company in the Fortune 500 with a non-discrimination policy that includes gender identity. With this announcement, 113,000 employees will learn that the company's promise fair treatment and equal benefits extends to GLBT employees as well."
Based in New Jersey, the Toys "R" Us non-discrimination policy already covered sexual orientation. The news came following a shareholder proposal that was filed by New York City's Pension Funds and the state of New York asking the company to abide by the Equality Principles. Those principles include sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive non-discrimination policies, "equal employee benefits" regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and inclusive diversity training. Toys "R" Us is the second company to agree to follow the Equality Principles as outlined in a shareholder resolution. Missouri-based Cerner Corp., a healthcare technology firm, agreed in March. The city of New York and its co-filers have withdrawn both resolutions.
In a letter to New York City's Office of the Comptroller, a Toys "R" Us representative asserted that the company would broaden its equal employment opportunity policy to include gender identity as a protected category. The representative also wrote, "Our policies and practices - existing and as so clarified - will encompass, in all material respects, the 10 principles included in your shareholder proposal."
"This news is extremely welcome and a signal that all companies can take steps forward that result in better business practices and higher productivity for employees," said Stachelberg.
In June 2002, a jury found the company guilty of discrimination against three transsexual consumers who were called names and threatened with baseball bats while shopping in December 2000. The jury, however, awarded only $1 in damages to each plaintiff.
"The company now needs to ensure that every single one of their employees understands and fully abides by this new policy," added Stachelberg. "While their commitment signifies a giant step forward, we look forward to more signs of the company's support for equality."
To score 100 percent, the company would have to demonstrate GLBT inclusiveness in advertising or philanthropy.
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