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What do North Carolina’s biggest companies think of HB 2?

What do North Carolina’s biggest companies think of HB 2?

Raleigh, capital of North Carolina, and home to ther headquarters of BB&T

Over 120 business leaders and head of well-known companies – including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tim Cook of Apple – have signed a letter calling for the governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, to repeal HB 2.

The legislation, passed swiftly last month and immediately signed by McCrory, was introduced in response to the city of Charlotte introducing a law that would have allowed transgender people to use public restrooms in fitting with their gender identity.

The draconian response – HB 2 – clamps down on many anti-LGBTI discrimination protections across the state.

Besides the letter signed by business leaders, the state has already faced a financial backlash. PayPal has cancelled a planned expansion in the state that would have created 400 jobs, while several movie studios have said that they will stop filming in the state if the law is not repealed.

Many of the businesses to take a stance are household names, and many are know for taking a proactive stance when it comes to LGBTI diversity and inclusion. But what about the businesses in the state itself?

Gay Star Business contacted the biggest corporations with their headquarters located in North Carolina to ask them.

1. Bank of America

The financial services company is the biggest public corporation in the state by some distance, with a value of $178billion in 2015. It has its headquarters in Charlotte, and its CEO, Brian Moynihan, CEO, was among those to sign the HRC and Equality North Carolina letter to Governor McCrory unequivocally asking him to repeal HB 2.

2. Lowe’s

Headquartered in Moorseville, hardware outlet Lowe’s has a worth of around $62billion. Asked about HB 2, a spokesperson sent us the following statement.

‘Lowe’s recognizes and values the rich diversity of our employees, the customers we serve and the communities where we do business each day. We welcome all people to our stores. Lowe’s opposes any measure in any state that would encourage or allow discrimination.’

A Lowe's warehouse in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
A Lowe’s warehouse in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

3. Reynolds American

Headquartered in Winston-Salem, tobacco corporation Reynolds American Inc. is worth some $53billion Its the parent company for cigarette brands Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit. A spokesperson sent the following statement.

‘Reynolds American Inc. and its subsidiaries have long recognized, valued and enjoyed the many benefits that diversity brings to both our employees and our businesses.

‘We remain committed to diversity and equal opportunity for all employees and applicants without regard to race, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, citizenship status, religion, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law.

‘Our employees should remain confident that we are committed to maintaining a working environment free from discriminatory insult, intimidation or harassment based on these protected classifications.

‘The restroom provisions of HB2 do not apply to RAI as a private employer. However, the Company will continue to comply with the guidance issued by federal agencies, including the EEOC, the OFCCP & OSHA regarding restroom access, permitting transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. We also have single restrooms available at each of our facilities for individuals who choose not to use a common restroom.’

4. Duke Energy

Energy company Duke Energy (worth $49billion) is headquartered in Charlotte. It issued us with the following statement, which didn’t reference HB 2 specifically but re-iterated its stance towards diversity:

‘Duke Energy’s position on diversity and inclusion is unambiguous. We are firmly committed to supporting diversity and equality in our workplace and the communities we serve.

‘Our wonderfully diverse employee body, which includes LGBT employees, has made us a better company. We will continue to actively support diversity and inclusion in our workplace.’

5. VF

Headquartered in Greensboro, the $30billion-worth apparel corporation VF may not be a familiar name but you will certainly know many of the brands it owns – which include Lee, Timberland, The North Face, Eastpak, Eagle Creek, Wrangler and Vans.

The corporation scored 85 (out of 100) on HRC’s most recent Corporate Equality Index (2016), up from a score of 15 in 2015.

A spokesperson said: ‘The legislation is in sharp contrast to what we stand for and how we operate our business, and we find the law unacceptable. We are a company that embraces the differences among people around the world.

‘Diversity is embedded deeply in our culture, values, policies and practices, which emphasize respect for inclusive environments that are free of discrimination.’

A Vans® retail store - part of the VF apparel empire
A Vans® retail store – part of the VF apparel empire

6. BB&T

A spokesperson for financial services corportation BB&T issued Gay Star Business with the following statement: ‘At BB&T, our mission is to help our clients achieve economic success and financial security regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. As a company and a culture, we embrace diversity and inclusion for our associates and in all aspects of our business.’

The company is headquartered in Winston-Salem and is worth $29billion.

7. Nucor

Based in Charlotte, steel company Nucor did not respond to our request for comment. The corporation (worth $14billion) scored just 10 on the HRC’s 2016 Corporate Equality Index, up from 0 in 2015 – indicating it has some way to go in embracing LGBTI diversity and inclusion in all its workplace policies and procedures.

8. Red Hat

Based in Raleigh, a spokesperson for the software company pointed out that: ‘Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat Chief People Officer DeLisa Alexander, and Red Hat’s VP of Government Relations Mark Bohannon have all tweeted in opposition, pointing to an existing statement on diversity from Red Hat.’

Indeed, Jim Whitehurst, CEO of the $14billion company called HB 2 a ‘clear backwards step’.

9. Hanesbrands

Another apparel corporation, the Winston-Salem headquartered Hanesbrands owns Hanes, Champion and Playtex, among others.

‘We do not support HB 2, and fortunately, it will not affect how we run our business and our very strong anti-discrimination policies and practices, including protection for sexual orientation and gender identity,’ a spokesperson told us.

‘We believe in leading by example, and the North Carolina governor and legislature are fully aware that we believe anti-discrimination protections should be much more robust than what the state currently mandates. North Carolina is not alone in that regard. Based on the Human Rights Campaign summary of state policies, we believe that only 20 states have anti-discrimination employment protections as robust as our company.

‘We are also proud to be a leader in providing employee benefits for our LBGT employees, including medical insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery. As far as the bathroom aspect of the current controversy, our employees are entitled to use the facilities consistent with their gender identity.’

The Burlington headquarters of LabCorp. of America
The Burlington headquarters of LabCorp. of America

10. Laboratory Corp. of America

Based in Burlington, $12billion-worth medical testing company Laboratory Corp. of America told Gay Star News that it would like to see HB 2 repealed and is planning on adding its name to HRC’s letter.

‘We have long supported a policy that permits employees to use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

‘LabCorp does not support North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2). We believe it will inhibit our ability to attract and retain the talent we need for our business to grow and thrive. We intend to sign the Equality North Carolina/Human Rights Campaign’s letter to Governor McCrory asking for the repeal of HB2.’

‘Businesses need to be able to attract and retain the best and brightest’

‘These business leaders are speaking out because they know this discriminatory legislation isn’t just morally wrong – but because it puts their employees, customers and North Carolina’s economy at risk,’ said Beck Bailey of HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program.

‘Businesses need to be able to attract and retain the best and brightest, and this type of legislation creates an unwelcoming environment for LGBT talent. This type of discriminatory attack casts a pall on the state, driving away consumers, tourism and investment. These companies are speaking out because North Carolina HB2 and other bills like it are decidedly business issues.’