Equal employment opportunity (EEO) is an important issue for shareholders, employees and managements, especially as the workforce becomes more diverse. According to the 1995 bipartisan Glass Ceiling Commission report, a strong diversity record makes a positive financial impact.
Yet, while women and minorities comprise 47% and 27% of the U.S. workforce, respectively, they represent less than 19% and 11% of executive-level positions. Representation in management is better, but still disproportionately low. Moreover, there was a significant decline in women’s share of executive positions in the 1990s. (Peopleclick Research Institute, Feb. 2004, using U.S. Census Bureau’s Census 2000 Special Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation.)
Workplace discrimination can be a significant burden for shareholders due to the high cost of litigation, potential loss of government contracts, and the financial consequences of a damaged corporate image resulting from alleged regulatory violations. In several instances, including at Home Depot, the financial costs to shareholders of settling discrimination lawsuits has exceeded $100 million.
While Home Depot’s most significant EEO settlement was in 1998, allegations of discrimination have persisted. In August 2004, Home Depot agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charges of class-wide discrimination based on gender, race and national origin in its Colorado stores.
We agree with the Glass Ceiling Commission that “public disclosure of diversity data—specifically data on the most senior positions—is an effective incentive to develop and maintain innovative, effective programs to break the glass ceiling barriers.” The Commission advocated for increased public disclosure of diversity data.
Well over one hundred major U.S. corporations disclose comprehensive EEO information to shareholders, including some that had previously experienced significant discrimination lawsuits, such as Chevron-Texaco and Coca-Cola.
In 2001 Home Depot entered into an agreement with a coalition of more than two dozen shareholder proponents representing investment firms, religious investors, foundations and a union, to provide comprehensive EEO information to investors, upon request. Since then, however, Home Depot has reversed its policy on disclosure of comprehensive EEO information.
We commend Home Depot for its leadership on many corporate social responsibility issues, particularly in the areas of environmental impact and community involvement. However, we believe Home Depot needs to show more leadership on workplace equality and honor its previous commitment to comprehensive EEO disclosure.
RESOLVED: The shareholders request our company prepare a report, at reasonable cost and omitting confidential information, within four months of the annual meeting, including the following:
1 A chart identifying employees according to their gender and race in each of the nine major EEOC-defined job categories for the last three years, listing numbers or percentages in each category;
2. A summary description of any affirmative action policies and programs to improve performance, including job categories where women and minorities are underutilized; and
3. A description of any policies and programs oriented specifically toward increasing the number of managers who are qualified females or minorities.