Outcome: Successfully withdrawn in exchange for the company adding gender identity to its Equal Employment Opportunity and Anti-Harassment Policy.
A.O. Smith does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression in its written employment policy.
According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2019 survey, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, a historic high. Organizations like the Business Roundtable have also called for strong LGBT workplace practices. The US Chamber of Commerce’s recently published report Business Success and Growth Through LGBT – Inclusive Culture, discusses the business imperative for LGBT inclusion in the workplace.
We believe that corporations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression have a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employees from the widest talent pool.
According to an analysis of surveys conducted by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, sixteen to sixty eight percent of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people report experiencing employment discrimination. Ninety percent of transgender individuals have encountered some form of harassment or mistreatment in the workplace.
Although federal law does not provide sexual orientation and gender identity employment discrimination protection, twenty-one states, the District of Columbia, and more than 114 cities and counties have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
A.O. Smith currently provides discrimination protections based on sexual orientation but not gender identity or expression. We are concerned AO Smith may be lagging behind peers with comprehensive equal employment opportunity policies. According to the Human Rights Campaign, many industrial companies, such as Emerson Electric, Johnson Controls and Eaton explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression in their written policies.
Shareholders request that A.O. Smith amend its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based gender identity or expression and to take concrete action to implement the policy.
We believe employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity diminishes employee morale and productivity. Because state and local laws are not comprehensive with respect to prohibiting employment discrimination, our company would benefit from a comprehensive, consistent, corporate-wide policy to enhance efforts to prevent discrimination, resolve complaints internally, access employees from the broadest talent pool, and ensure a respectful and supportive atmosphere for all employees. We believe A.O. Smith will enhance its competitive edge by joining the growing ranks of companies guaranteeing equal opportunity for all employees.