by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
The HRC announced on September 28 that Walmart, the country's largest private-sector employer, has added gender identity and expression to its employment non-discrimination policies.
Walmart spokesperson Phillip Keene told the Windy City Times that the changes went into effect 'several weeks ago.'
'We've had a strong anti-discrimination policy for a long time,' Keene added.
Walmart's non-discrimination policies already included sexual orientation.
'What matters in the workplace is how you do your job, not your gender identity or sexual orientation,' HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement.
'As the nation's largest private employer, Walmart 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.'
Walmart employees, who recently formed an organization called 'OUR Walmart' (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), took a more skeptical view of the change in policy.
'I'm glad to see Walmart making this change. My concern is not what their policy says, but what they do,' OUR Walmart organizer Misty Tanner told SGN in an email.
'When I worked for Walmart as an assistant manager, they had a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, I faced discrimination from my fellow management team on a weekly basis for being a Lesbian, and nothing was done about it. Walmart needs to do more than just change their policy; they need to change their culture.'
Tanner's experience is not unique, according to reports from other LGBT Walmart employees.
In 2010 Walmart employee Fernando Gallardo said management questioned him about his sexual orientation in front of co-workers. After revealing to his supervisor that he is Gay, he was stripped of many of his responsibilities and was forced to wear a yellow vest while in the store.
The HRC, like other LGBT groups, has been critical of Walmart.
In HRC's 2011 Corporate Equality Index, which grades companies on how well their polices meet the needs of the LGBT community, Walmart received a rating of only 40 out of a possible 100.
WalmartWatch.org reported that the company received a 15-point deduction for 'a large-scale official or public anti-LGBT blemish on their recent records, specifically by opposing a shareholder resolution to amend their non-discrimination policies to include gender identity.'
In January, the New York Stonewall Democrats and the NGLTF joined the 'Walmart Free NYC Campaign.'
Both cited Walmart's failure to include Transgender workers in non-discrimination protections, an issue now apparently resolved, and other reasons.
'Walmart represents a culture of intolerance and insensitivity towards LGBT employees and issues that is unwelcome in New York,' the Stonewall Democrats said at the time.
'Just last year , more than 100 Walmart stores were found to be promoting a children's book that suggested that Gay people can overcome 'sin' and convert to heterosexuality with the help of counseling.
'Walmart CEO Mike Duke signed a petition in his home state of Arkansas that was aimed at preventing adoption by Gay and Lesbian parents.'
Walmart confirmed that Duke did, in fact, sign the anti-Gay adoption petition, but declined further comment.
The NGLTF also cited Duke's opposition to adoption by same-sex couples, but listed a number of other complaints as well.
'On same-sex partnership benefits, gender identity nondiscrimination, diversity training, and other employment policies and workplace issues, Walmart is eons behind many companies,' said NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey.
'For example, two of Walmart's top competitors, Costco and Walgreens, both of which operate stores in New York City, offer health care and other benefits to same-sex partners, include gender identity in their nondiscrimination policy, and strive to create an environment in which Transgender people feel safe and secure, rather than vulnerable to harm.'
Walmart, with some 2 million employees, is the largest private-sector employer in the U.S. and the world.
The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest employer overall, with 3.5 million employees, including both civilians and military personnel.
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