Tennessee businesses and corporations are yielding to pressure from LGBT activists to promote LGBT ideology in the workplace in the name of diversity.
Nissan is now offering benefits to help transgender employees transition, and even Cracker Barrel is pro-actively seeking approval and recognition from the LGBT community. Cracker Barrel had a booth at Nashville’s gay pride festival in June next to which it set up its trademark rocking chairs for festival-goers to kick back and relax.
The push is well under way despite Tennessee being a red state where conservatism is influenced by Christian faith, and where voters overwhelmingly helped put President Trump in office. Trump recently announced that he would restore a ban on transgender troops in the military that had been undone by former President Obama, who not only wanted to welcome openly transgender troops but help them with the medical costs of transitioning.
In the private sector, special medical benefits for transgender individuals have also become an issue. Nissan North America, based in Franklin, has added benefits to cover sex reassignments, according to the Nashville Business Journal. Covered costs include those associated with treatments, surgeries and other medical procedures. Last year, Nissan worked with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, to include not only sexual orientation but also gender identity and expression in its new equal employment opportunity statement.
Cathy Lively, senior analyst for diversity and inclusion at Nissan, told Nashville Business Journal that the company has had employees transition using the new benefits plan, but for privacy reasons did not say how many. The company is offering the benefits to make Nissan more competitive, she said.
“We know there’s a war [for] talent, and we want to make sure we’re an employer of choice,” Lively said. “It’s good for business. It’s not just good for Nissan — it’s good for Middle Tennessee.”
Other businesses offering transgender medical benefits include the Baker Donelson law firm, UBS, Bank of America and Fifth Third Bank.
Meanwhile, the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, long known for its traditional and family-friendly environment and headquartered in Lebanon, Tennessee, has enhanced efforts to recruit gay-owned businesses for its supplier network.
Terry Deas, Cracker Barrel’s director of diversity and outreach, told Nashville Business Journal that providing a more inclusive workplace is related to being a more successful company.
“Our diversity strategy is our business strategy,” Deas said. “[Having conversations about workplace inclusiveness] allows our employees to have a safe place to talk about all types of challenges that we have to talk about as a company. They’re more engaged, and the more engaged they are, the better we are as a company.”
Cracker Barrel did not return phone calls and emails from The Tennessee Star asking for comment.
Many businesses have become sensitive about the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which annually ranks participating businesses based on implementation of employee LGBT policies promoted by the group. The index has influenced businesses to become LGBT-friendly to receive a good rating. Nissan and Baker Donelson received perfect scores in the 2017 report. HCA Healthcare and Bridgestone have also received high ratings. Cracker Barrel has not ranked as high, but has earned credit for its non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, domestic partner health insurance and LGBT outreach.
In December, a new coalition called Tennessee Thrives began recruiting businesses to stand against legislative measures it regards as unwelcoming to LGBT individuals, such as bathroom bills that require people to use the bathroom that correspond to their biological sex. More than 350 businesses have signed the group’s pledge, according to to the Tennessee Thrives website. Corporations now play such a large role in the LGBT debate that some threaten boycotts of entire states because of policies they regard as anti-LGBT. Entertainers and sports teams have also joined boycotts.
However, critics have called such efforts nonsensical. A number of corporations lauded by pro-LGBT groups do business in countries that are hostile to LGBT individuals, in some cases to the point of executing them or threatening them with violence and death.