Wal-Mart Adds Sexual Orientation to Nondiscrimination Policy
In contrast to its history of sex discrimination, Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest private employer, last week expanded its anti-discrimination policies to protect the rights of gay and lesbian workers. Among the 10 largest Fortune 500 companies, Wal-Mart is the ninth to adopt a policy-to be covered in the retailer's diversity-awareness training programs for all employees-that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the Associated Press. Changes in the language and content of the employee handbook to promote equal treatment of and respect for workers of all sexual orientations are effective immediately, according to Reuters.
Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for communications, told the New York Times, the decision-made public by the Pride Foundation, a Seattle-based gay rights organization that had lobbied Wal-Mart for gay workers' protection for two years-was made after a letter from gay employees to senior management officials demanded the company change its policy.
Many gay rights groups hail Wal-Mart's move as a step forward in the gay rights movement, which has picked up momentum after the Supreme Court struck down Texas anti-sodomy laws two weeks ago, according to the Associated Press. Pride Foundation board representative Zack Wright told the Associated Press that the decision is especially significant because of Wal-Mart's size and presence in rural areas. Gay rights advocates expect that other corporations and possibly state governments will soon follow suit, according to the Times.
Steven Sprenger, a partner with a Washington D.C. law firm that specializes in sexual discrimination, told Reuters that while the policy is a good start, enforcement is critical. Wal-Mart, the most sued-company in the United States, according to the National Organization for Women, continues to face many gender discrimination lawsuits, despite the presence of a policy that prohibits gender discrimination. The pending California case Dukes v. Wal-Mart, set for class certification on July 25, alleges systematic sex discrimination in unequal pay, promotion, and training. If granted class-action status, this case against Wal-Mart could be the largest discrimination suit in history, according to Fortune.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .