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CEOs: Banning Discrimination Good for Business

A group of the top CEOs in the state of Michigan is telling the state that they should add sexual orientation to the list of prohibited bases for discrimination, arguing that it will be good for business by helping them attract the best employees.

A group of the state’s top CEOs says Michigan should ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Business Leaders for Michigan made that suggestion and many others in its 2014 plan to improve the economy and make the state a top 10 economic competitor nationwide.

The recommendation is listed along with attracting skilled immigrants and expanding cultural exchange programs as ways to “make Michigan an aspirational destination by being a welcoming place to all.”

“We just think that to be attracting population, we looked at it from a talent perspective, and most of our employers already have policies in place that deal with this, so we just felt it was a natural to put in in the plan,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of BLM, a group of more than 80 Michigan CEOs and executives representing nearly a quarter of the state’s economy…

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights last year released a study that found Michigan’s economy would benefit from an anti-discrimination law that includes protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

The study found that the “current state of discrimination” compels some professionals and college graduates to leave Michigan in favor of more welcoming states. It also impacts businesses’ competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce, ability to attract a diverse customer base and employee productivity and morale, according to the report.

But since both houses of the state legislature are controlled by Republicans, and many of them from the far-right fringe, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of this happening any time soon.

Comments

  1. says

    So a bunch of employers are admitting they can’t be trusted by their own employees without Big Gummint breathing down their necks? That says a lot.

    The recommendation is listed along with attracting skilled immigrants…

    How about supporting an education system that creates skilled natives?

  2. doublereed says

    But since both houses of the state legislature are controlled by Republicans, and many of them from the far-right fringe, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of this happening any time soon.

    Not really. Republicans are very cozy with businesses. Depends if they want to pander to their base or their wallet.

  3. eric says

    @2 – no, that’s not what they are saying. They are saying that even if they welcome gays as a corporation, the State having anti-gay laws makes it more difficult to recruit people because of the perception of overall, social inhospitability.

    This is perfectly reasonable. Just think of an anology: your town puts a giant “No Irish Need Apply” billboard up on the border of the town. You are the one store in town that hires Irish people without discrimination. Are you going to complain that the sign is hurting your business? Of course. Its perfectly reasonable to think that any potential Irish worker is going to see that sign and not want to want to work at your store (even though you don’t discriminate yourself), because many of them won’t want to live in such a town. Same thing here.

  4. says

    Yes, eric, that pretty much IS what they’re saying: they’re admitting that their own in-house inclusiveness policies are not enough to attract and keep good employees, so they need active intervention by government in addition to their own voluntary good works.

  5. neonsequitur says

    I’m all for banning discrimination.

    But even if they did, corporate America’s hiring methods would still be completely broken.

  6. jeevmon says

    eric- I think it sweeps more broadly than even your example. Many people actually value tolerance and diversity as a general value, particularly people in knowledge and creative industries. A “no Irish” or “no gays” sign out front might be off-putting not only for the Irish and the gays, but also for other groups because they are opposed to such discrimination and don’t want to live in a place that tolerates it, even if it does not personally affect them. Such signs also are proxies for other kinds of bias. If I see a community that is intolerant of homosexuals or tolerant of intolerance for homosexuals, I can reasonably infer that there are people who are strongly committed to things like abstinence-only education, prayer in schools, and “teaching the controversy” about the origins and development of life. As a parent, those are things that bother me.

  7. D. C. Sessions says

    I smell a Libertarian.

    I would have thought that a Libertarian would be one of the first to recognize that a hostile governmental policy would be bad for business.

    Intel (for instance) is Arizona’s largest employer. They’re really quite good about their diversity policies (others, not so much but quite irrelevant.) Is it surprising that they’re not happy with Arizona’s addition of Spanish language greetings to the signs at the State lines, with “Welcome to Arizona” getting “Se prohibe entrada” added?

  8. says

    This isn’t just about “hostile government policies;” it’s about government needing to actively intervene to counteract hostile PRIVATE actions. That’s what this anti-discrimination law is: a law attempting to stop private entities from discriminating against certain people, so those people will be able to stay and work where they want.

  9. jeevmon says

    A Libertarian would say that they are against laws mandating discrimination, but that laws prohibiting private discrimination are the cost of freedom. They are remarkably tolerant of private discriminatory practices that they reasonably feel are unlikely to affect them directly. Of course, they say, they personally would refuse to patronize a business that had a sign out front saying “no blacks” or “no gays.”

  10. eric says

    This isn’t just about “hostile government policies;” it’s about government needing to actively intervene to counteract hostile PRIVATE actions.

    I think where I take issue with your comments is that you seem to be implying here and in @2 that these 80 corporations making this recommnedation are the ones being hostile to gays. That clearly isn’t the case.

    Maybe I am misreading your comment and you are saying that these 80 companies want the state to make all the other companies adopt gay-friendly policies, and you object to that?

  11. barryd says

    Rationalinks: ” It has nothing to do with their “in-house inclusiveness policies” and everything to do with the state creating an atmosphere that is difficult or impossible to recruit and retain top talent. I could create the most incredible internal policies at my company, but if my state fosters a hostile environment that is counter to my policies, my policies mean absolutely nothing. Yes, sometimes it takes the government to tell people they aren’t allowed to discriminate. It would be awesome if they didn’t HAVE to do that, but that is not the world we live in.”

    And these companies are trying to persuade people to come to Michigan, which (a) has a depressed economy and a bad reputation, and (b) has a wingnut government who thinks that ‘Michissippi’ is a goal, not an insult.

    (note – I live there)

  12. Michael Heath says

    Raging Bee writes:

    So a bunch of employers are admitting they can’t be trusted by their own employees without Big Gummint breathing down their necks? That says a lot.

    No. Instead these business leaders are looking to leverage government power to protect GBLT employees in all businesses, beyond what this group does itself. The are not after all the full set of businesses; e.g., ever hear of Hobby Lobby? Even large companies, or leaders within a sector, can’t control the cultural environment of an area. You need government for that. Especially when employee perception is involved.

    So it’s not enough for Google in Ann Arbor, MI or Ford in Dearborn, MI to claim they don’t discriminate by sexual orientation, or that Traverse City, MI prohibits such discrimination within its jurisdiction. Far better for prospective out-of-state employees to learn that MI state laws prohibit this sort of discrimination. That’s what’s being lobbied for where this is a laudable and meaningful effort.

  13. Michael Heath says

    rationalinks writes:

    I could create the most incredible internal policies at my company, but if my state fosters a hostile environment that is counter to my policies, my policies mean absolutely nothing.

    This ins’t even close to being right. A major factor in increasing the protection of gay rights is employers who stopped discriminating against gay rights. That’s our legacy. This is one big enabling factor that allowed so many gay people to exit the closet.

    Of course some employers ending their written discrimination policies isn’t enough. That’s one reason I strongly advocate sexual identification become a protected class at the federal level. But it’s wildly wrong to think the march towards equality wasn’t helped by all those employers who now treat their gay employees more equally.

  14. D. C. Sessions says

    Far better for prospective out-of-state employees to learn that MI state laws prohibit this sort of discrimination.

    It doesn’t hurt when (e.g.) New Mexico makes headlines for a State constitution that forbids discrimination against LGBT people, leading to both SSM all over the State (in the news for each county!) and again several times when the courts find against a bigoted wedding photographer.

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