Laclede Gas moving in the right direction

Two months ago, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation rated Laclede Gas Company as the worst place of employment in the nation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered workers, tied only with ExxonMobil. After a March 26 protest championed by Show Me No H8 and other local activist groups, Laclede has officially changed its company policy to include protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.The official changes include a clause appended to the company’s non-discrimination policy outlining specific protection for workers “without regard to race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status or information protected by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), or other protected status, in accordance with Federal, State, and local laws.” Laclede Gas spokesperson Robert Arrol has also issued a statement inviting HRC to do another survey with the newly implemented policies.

We believe that this change from Laclede Gas is a step in the right direction and shows that the corporation is at least in part listening to the local St. Louis community. Because it has a monopoly on natural gas in the St. Louis area, Laclede Gas’s policies strongly affect Wash. U. as well as the local St. Louis community. This recent victory is a crucial step in the right direction toward ending discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.

However, we should put this event into perspective: though Laclede Gas’ policy change shows the efficacy of local involvement and activism, efforts such as this one must be continuous. It is our responsibility—both as ­students and as citizens—to work within the local community to push for causes such as this one. If anything, Laclede’s recent actions serve to show us that involvement can actually make a difference. We should take the real results of their initative as incentive to take part in our broader community.

This issue should inspire further engagement and activism across the board. Laclede, for its part, can continue to improve the language in its policies, and to make sure that this language invokes real substantive change. Despite Robert Arrol’s confidence in Laclede’s protection of LGBT rights, we should not take it for granted that discrimination in the workplace is no longer an issue for Laclede. For example, the non-discrimination policy still does not include gender identity in its delineations.

Still, Laclede should be applauded for taking a step in the right direction while other companies such as ExxonMobil have refused to address the issue. Hopefully, working closely with groups such as HCR will move Laclede’s policies in the right direction. Ideally Laclede’s F will become an A+ in the near future, though as of now it’s more like a B.

  • JOE BLOW

    Laclede Gas is a Monopoly I feel violated that I can’t choose between gas companies. There service sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.ShowMeNoHate.com ShowMeNoHate

    @Jeremy Loscheider

    It is clear you are completely biased or narrow in your thinking. The article pointed out Laclede’s lock on their services as a point of reference to why they should lean on the side of full equality. You see Jeremy, most companies that sell a product/service cannot always afford to be politically progressive during these wacko doodle times. They might receive backlash from the radical religious right. But a company like Laclede Group would lose zero customers if they updated their homophobic and transphobic policies. What will a Catholic Church do, turn off the heat? I doubt it.

    It is important to remember that many other businesses based in Missouri already receive a perfect score on HRC Equality Index: Boeing, Monsanto and Pfizer all receive wonderful scores regarding their treatment of LGBT employees.

    As for your attacking the article because it doesn’t show evidence of any discrimination, may I suggest you read some history. We know that when companies blocked employee rights to African-Americans in the workplace, there was a lot of discrimination and abuse. Some of it will be reported and some of it will never be reported. Without employee protections in place, many LGBT employees currently working at Laclede Group have to work closeted in fear of being fired or harassed at their jobs. It would be impossible for them to complain. We do know that many eventually speak out after leaving the culture of fear, bigotry and discrimination inside Laclede Group.

    So I recommend you read a bit of history Jeremy and talk to some LGBT friends you might have, ask them what they think about work discrimination. And if you don’t have any LGBT friends, that would tell you something about yourself.

    • Jeremy Loscheider

      You assume too much about me, and unfairly.

      Why must a company have a stance on gay marriage or other LGBT issues in the first place? I assure you, if there were only one tax filing status, my company would not care whether I was married.

      I attack the article because it accepts without question the assertions of the HRC along with its flawed methodology. You cannot justifiably assert a culture of homophobia without evidence, nor can you say that the potential for abuse exists simply because there isn’t a policy adequate by the HRC’s standards to prevent such abuse.

      I find your comparison between potential employment discrimination for LGBT persons and what African Americans historically suffered to be woefully contrived, at best. It comes off sounding conceited and ignorant of the testimony of history, which includes myriad legal cases and legislation documenting discrimination and abuse. It’s also irrelevant to the present question, which is:

      Did any LGBT person suffer discrimination for their identity or orientation while employed by Lacledge Gas? The article all but asserted that it has, amd without evidence. That is shoddy journalism to accuse a corporation or a person without substantiation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593555791 Jerome Bauer

    Another upcoming event, a nice followup to the very popular People’s Settlement Labor History Tour of St Louis, is our upcoming May Day celebration on Cherokee Street: May Day 2010: St Louis, http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=200734103711

    WashU students can now graduate with almost no knowledge of labor history or sensitivity to labor issues. One surprising thing many of us learned at the People’s Settlement Teach-In on Privatization of Public Education is that many teachers regard Teach for America participants as scabs. I have lost count of the recommendation letters I have written for students applying to that very competitive program, and I have always supported TFA and similar programs, but there are always as many sides to any issue as there are people taking sides. I would like to hear more, and so, I am sure, would many WashU students, even if they have to leave the WashU Bubble to learn about this.

    Am I allowed to say “scab” here without being blocked and jammed offline, or reported to the Judicial Inquiry Office (as has happened before)? Please let’s not forget our past, as we look to the future.

  • Jeremy Loscheider

    I think this commentary and the HRC are expecting a bit much from Laclede Gas.

    I agree someone’s employment opportunities should be based solely upon performance, skill, and merit and should have nothing to do with lifestyle choices. But there’s no proof offered here or in the HRC report (www.HRC.org) that a Laclede employee has suffered repercussions due to their orientation or gender identity.

    It especially bothers me that journalism students at this well-respected university state “we should not take it for granted that discrimination in the workplace is no longer an issue with Laclede.” This is weasel way of implying that discrimination has occurred and may occur again without offering evidence. It is good editorial practice to avoid such rhetorical devices, or at least be prepared to contend with accusations of slander.
    The statement also has the logical value of “we cannot be certain he doesn’t do terrible things to his dog with a fork.”

    Moreover, I don’t understand what Laclede’s local monopoly of natural gas delivery has to do with the influence of its non-discrimination policies upon area residents. As a major employer, these policies certainly affect its employees, but are you suggesting that they would shut off service to a transgender person because there’s no policy that explicitly prohibits them doing so?

    The absence of a criteria based on proof of discrimination is one issue I have with the HRC’s methodology, which this paper has embraced without question. Of the eleven criteria and subcriteria listed in their report not one pertains to action having been taken against an individual.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593555791 Jerome Bauer

    ” It is our responsibility—both as students and as citizens—to work within the local community to push for causes such as this one. If anything, Laclede’s recent actions serve to show us that involvement can actually make a difference. We should take the real results of their initative as incentive to take part in our broader community.”

    Amen to that!

    This was one of our most effective People’s Settlement actions, and standup comedian Ed Reggi deserves much of the credit, for enlightening and entertaining us with some good, free street theater. In THIS economy, how can you beat free entertainment?

    Please take the initiative and let’s support each other’s initiatives, including foreclosure prevention, urban homesteading, public transit restoration and reform, and expansion of our cooperative and co-housing network.

    Here’s a worthwhile event scheduled for Pay It Forward Day, Thursday, April 29: Improving Low Income & Minority Communities’ Access to Wealth, http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=107439625960548&ref=mf