Perot Systems reinstates partner benefits; HRC gets no response from Cinemark

Posted on 17 Sep 2009 at 10:04am
By John Wright I News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

8 North Texas companies score perfect 100 percent on HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index

PLANO — Perot Systems Corp., a Plano-based IT services provider with more than 23,000 employees worldwide, recently reinstated domestic partner benefits after rescinding them more than a decade ago, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation reported this week in releasing its annual Corporate Equality Index.

Meanwhile, another Plano-based company, Cinemark Theatres, failed to respond to HRC’s survey for the index, which rates major U.S. businesses according to their LGBT-related employment practices.

Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest movie theater chain, became the target of gay-rights protests last year after CEO Alan Stock, a Mormon, personally contributed $10,000 to Yes on 8, the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California.

Daryl Herrschaft, director of HRC’s workplace project, said 2009 marked the first year in which Cinemark received a survey from HRC’s for the index, because the company didn’t enter the Fortune 1,000 until 2008.

Herrschaft said Cinemark didn’t respond to the survey despite letters from HRC that would have gone to both Stock and the company’s vice president for human resources, Brad Smith. As a result, the company isn’t listed in the index, which assigns companies that complete the survey a numerical grade from 0-100 percent.

"Even if they don’t get their mail, we’re pretty easy to find," Herrschaft said. "I think it would be a smart business decision for them to engage with HRC and discuss their policies with us so they can get a rating and see where they land."
James Meredith, a spokesman for Cinemark, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment this week.

Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, cautioned against reading too much into the fact that Cinemark didn’t respond to HRC this year. Since it was the company’s first year receiving the survey, Vedda said, officials may not have understood its significance. 

"If we get to this point next year, and we have the same thing, and we know that a significant effort has been made to get them to do it, then we might have something to talk about," Vedda said.

Vedda was part of a group of LGBT leaders that met with Cinemark representatives in February amid fallout over Stock’s contribution to Yes on 8. The contribution prompted protests outside Cinemark theaters in Plano and other cities, as well as calls for a boycott from many in the community.

Cinemark reportedly has an employment nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. However, the company doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits outside of California, where’s it’s effectively mandated by state law.

While many of Cinemark’s LGBT-related employment practices remain a mystery, Perot Systems responded to the survey for the first time this year, Herrschaft said.

"We’ve been reaching out to the company every year, and finally we were able to identify an individual there who was willing to provide us with information," Herrschaft said. "I think the reason they came forward was that they have finally moved to reinstate their domestic partner benefits."

Perot Systems, founded by former presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1988, rescinded DP benefits in 1997 after Perot returned to the company, according to HRC.

Since then, Perot Systems has consistently received a 0 percent on the index, in part because the company was penalized for "engaging in activity that would undermine LGBT equality."

This year, Perot Systems received a 53 percent, leaving only two companies out of 590 with a 0 percent on the index: Irving-based ExxonMobil Corp. and St. Louis-based The Laclede Group Inc.

ExxonMobil, listed at No. 2 on the 2008 Fortune 1,000, rescinded Mobil’s LGBT employment protections and DP benefits after the companies merged in 1999. Since then, ExxonMobil has resisted shareholder pressure to amend its nondiscrimination policies to include sexual orientation.

On a more positive note, eight companies in North Texas, and 18 statewide, received a perfect score of 100 on the index this year.

This is despite the fact that Texas is one of about 30 states with no statute prohibiting anti-gay job bias.

The 18 companies in Texas were among 305 nationally that received perfect scores on the index, which is up from 260 last year and 13 in 2002, the first year the index was compiled. The average score went from 83 percent last year to 86 percent this year.

To view the Corporate Equality Index 2010, go to www.hrc.org/issues/workplace/cei.htm.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.

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