Out & Equal to discuss Bringing Your Partner’s Picture to Work at Sue Ellen’s

Today is Out & Equal’s Bring Your Partner’s Picture to Work Day.

Out & Equal is the national workplace equality organization made up of employee resource groups and individuals who work in a corporate environment.

“We believe that if you want to live in a world where you can bring your partner’s picture to work, it’s time to bring your partner’s picture to work,” Out & Equal wrote in their release.

After work, head over to Sue Ellen’s and meet upstairs in the Vixin Lounge to share your experience from 5:30–7:30 p.m.

The Out & Equal Workplace Summit takes place in Baltimore at the city’s convention center beginning Monday. Online registration is closed but attendees may still register at the conference.

Last year’s Summit took place at the Anatole in Dallas and was so successful the organization would like to return. But negotiations right now reportedly are stalled on Mayor Mike Rawlings’ refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. The convention brought millions of dollars to the city.

This year’s conference schedule is here.

—  David Taffet

Creating equality in the workplace

12-year-old Out & Equal brings its annual summit to Dallas, home of workplace equality advocacy legend Louise Young

Young.Louise

Louise Young

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

To Out & Equal Executive Director Selisse Berry, Dallas activist Louise Young is a workplace equality advocacy legend.

Young worked at Texas Instruments and helped found the employee resource group at that company. Texas Instruments added benefits for its gay and lesbian employees commensurate with its straight employees and nondiscrimination became a way of life at the company, due in no small part to Young’s efforts.

Then Texas Instruments sold the division in which Young and a number of other LGBT employees worked to Raytheon, a company that did not have the LGBT-related policies and benefits that TI had.

So Young made an appointment with top Raytheon executives. She explained to them that she worked hard to gain her equality in the workplace, and that former TI employees now moving to Raytheon would expect the same at their new company.

And she did it all long before Out & Equal was ever created.

Raytheon GLBTA Global President Gib Murray said, “They were very receptive to having an inclusive workplace, allowing employees to be their complete self and recruit and retain the best and brightest.”

And he said that the company was pretty thorough when it looked at employee benefits.

“It’s just kind of handled,” Murray said. “When a situation comes up, it’s addressed.”

He said that once Raytheon embraced diversity, it jumped to the head of the pack to become the first defense contractor to receive a 100 percent rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Out & Equal’s mission

Equality has become the norm at large U.S. corporations, despite one very large local exception — ExxonMobil. But even in a category like defense contracting, Raytheon is no longer alone in ensuring equality.

Northrup Grumman also rates 100 percent and its CEO will speak in Dallas next week at the national Out & Equal Workplace Summit being held at the Hilton Anatole Hotel.

Out & Equal is the national organization committed to ending workplace discrimination for LGBT employees. It works with employee resource groups, or ERGs, from major corporations to encourage best workplace practices for all LGBT employees. The Oct. 25-28 conference will be the largest LGBT meeting Dallas has ever hosted, with 2,500 people expected to attend.

Max Rippetoe of JC Penney Pride said ERGs have three purposes — to attract and retain the best talent, to get the most out of those who are here and to reach out to the community.

At his company, he said having the Pride group may attract a designer that wouldn’t go to a cross-town, upscale rival — Neiman Marcus, which scored 30 percent in the CEI guide — that doesn’t have a similar group. He said having the group was simply good for business.

LGBT customers feel welcome shopping at a place that  maintains its 100 percent rating with HRC, Rippetoe said.

When the Out & Equal Workplace Summit comes to Dallas, JC Penney will be a “titanium sponsor.” The company will present a fashion show, and retiring CEO Mike Ullman and Liz Sweney, executive vice president, senior general merchandise manager and the executive sponsor of JC Penney’s Pride, will participate as plenary speakers.

Daphne Avila is a JC Penney company spokesperson and a member of Pride. She said, “Since this is the first time Out & Equal is coming to Dallas and this is our home base, it made sense for us to sponsor.”

She said that she was proud of how the company has transformed internally.

“The company made inclusion and diversity part of our turnaround,” Avila said, crediting Ullman with the company’s commitment to diversity.

Ullman himself has disabilities and has adopted two daughters with disabilities. The Penney’s group for associates with disabilities is one of the most dynamic of the company’s ERGs, Avila said.

Over the past few years, Avila said, associate participation in resource groups at JC Penney has grown. The groups contribute to “training programs that keep store employees cognizant of diverse customer needs.”

LEAGUE@AT&T, created in the late 1980s, will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, according to its president, Theresa Bates-McLemore, who called her group the original employee resource group.

She said that her company encourages its employees to come out, because staying in the closet at work takes up too much time and energy and is counterproductive to a healthy work environment.

She said that Gary Fraundorfer, vice president of human resources,  is so committed to  ending workplace discrimination that he recently joined the board of Resource Center Dallas. Because the current AT&T is made up of various phone companies that have merged, Fraundorfer is currently reviewing policies inherited from each entity to make sure that there is no discrimination company-wide.

Incoming LEAGUE@AT&T President John Cramer said that if a situation comes up, being a member of LEAGUE helps, since the group has direct access to top management.

He added that employees can’t get domestic partner benefits if the company doesn’t know about the partner.

Paul von Wupperfeld is a member of TI’s employee resource group and heads the local Out & Equal regional affiliate. Many companies are beginning to address transgender discrimination and benefits. He said the biggest argument against adding those benefits is cost.

“But no company was ever bankrupted by gender reassignment surgery,” von Wupperfield said.

Adding that benefit, he said, “sends a powerful message that they care about employees’ well-being.”

Von Wupperfield said that other area companies are working with is benefits equality.

A company may offer health insurance for domestic partners just as it is offered to married spouses. However, the federal government taxes the benefit given to a same-sex partner, but not toa heterosexually married spouse — even in states that have marriage equality.

“We’d rather see it fixed at the government level,” he said, but some companies have begun paying employees the amount they owe in extra taxes. Bank of America announced this month that it would pay that differential to its gay and lesbian employees.

TI is looking into this form of compensation as well, he said.

Von Wupperfeld said that the ERGs at his company work well together.

“No employee resource group can exist in opposition to any other,” he said.

So when the Christian Values Initiative formed, his group made a point of working with them.

This summer the two groups were among the co-sponsors of an exhibit on Nazi treatment of gays at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. Members of the Christian group were at the museum when the exhibit arrived in crates, helping to unpack and assemble the displays.

 

2011-OE-DFW-Council

OUT AT WORK | The 2011 Out & Equal DFW council spent the year preparing to welcome the largest conference Dallas has ever hosted.

The Summit

Selise Berry said the Workplace Summit is inspiring. In little more than a decade, Out & Equal has grown into one of the largest LGBT organizations in the country.

A graduate of University of North Texas, Berry was a teacher in Dallas before moving to the San Francisco Bay area to attend Presbyterian Seminary. Because she was lesbian, she could not be ordained, so she went to work for non-profits and did diversity training.

In 1999, Berry created Out & Equal, pulling together the various employee resource groups around the country and regional groups of groups.
For three years she worked alone. Today, Out & Equal has 17 regional affiliates, including ones in Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston.

The Workplace Summit is the organization’s big annual event, but the staff of 20 works throughout the year to create resources for healthcare providers, nonprofits and corporations of all sizes that do not have their own ERGs.

Berry said that one of the themes at this year’s conference is taking LGBT benefits global. Among the issues is whether a company would take a contract in a country where its LGBT employees would not be safe, and if it does, how does it deal with that discrimination.

Out & Equal is becoming an international organization. Among the attendees at this year’s conference are people from a number of companies around the world.

One measure of Out & Equal’s success is the lineup for the conference.

“It took us a number of years before a CEO agreed to speak,” she said. “This year we have two.”

The conference will feature 140 different workshops and a number of featured panels. CNN’s LZ Gunderson will interview Golden State Warriors President and CEO Rick Welts, the highest-ranking person in professional sports management to come out. Entertainers such as Meredith Baxter, Margaret Cho and Kate Clinton will attend.

Dallas will contribute to the entertainment with Turtle Creek Chorale, Dallas Black Dance Theater and Ballet Folklorico performing.

Online registration has closed but registration will be accepted at the door beginning Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 8 a.m. at the Hilton Anatole. Three-day registration is $1,195. One-day rate is $400.

…………………

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Roseann Rosetti

QUILT DISPLAY

The Collin County-based AIDS education group C.U.R.E. will display 18 blocks from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Dallas this weekend. In addition, there will be a signature panel for people who have viewed the quilt to sign.

Group founder Roseann Rosetti said many of the panels are in memory of people from Dallas.

The quilts will be on display at the Hilton Anatole in the Tower Building in the hall and rotunda and outside the Trinity Ballroom where the lunches and dinners for the conference take place. Rosetti said everyone is welcome to come view the panels.

— David Taffet

………………..

Celeb Sightings
For a list of celebrities appearing at the
Out & Equal summit, Oct. 25-28 in Dallas, CLICK HERE.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pride 2011 • Joel Burns: The difference a speech makes

When Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns followed his heart and spoke at a council meeting about his experiences as a bullied gay teen, the nation listened — and, he hopes, it helped make things get better

Burns.Joel
Joel Burns

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Honorary Grand Marshall

When Joel Burns made a speech to the Fort Worth City Council about his experiences being bullied as a teenager, he had no idea the kind of impact his words would have on people around this country.

But a year later, when organizers of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade chose “It Only Gets Better,” as the parade theme, Burns was the obvious choice for honorary grand marshal.

Burns said that his husband, J.D. Angle, calls the day Burns spoke at the council, “the day I blew up our lives.”

In some ways, that speech also blew up Fort Worth City Hall.

Burns received so many emails in the days following his emotional speech that the city had to replace its email server.

The phone system was so overwhelmed that it also had to be replaced.

And Burns’ office was so busy answering calls and replying to messages from teens from across the country who were bullied that the mayor’s office was running messages to him.

During a speech at the recent national convention of LEAGUE, the LGBT employee resource group for AT&T, Burns joked about what he learned from his sudden celebrity: “Between Ellen [DeGeneres] and Matt Lauer, Ellen’s the better kisser,” he said.

But on a serious side, Burns recalled receiving a torn piece of paper from a teen. It was what would have been the rest of a suicide note, which the teen decided not to finish after seeing Burns’ video.

“This is what remains of the note I left my roommate. Thank you,” the young man wrote to Burns.

Burns said that he wishes he could go back in time and tell his 13-year-old self that it really does get better.

He said that he believes that as human beings, we are drawn to bold action. But during our lives we tamp that impulse down. We learn that there are sometimes consequences and so we decide not to speak out, he said.

As a councilman, “My job is to fill potholes,” Burns said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do.”

But last year he started hearing about young people taking their lives. He mentioned Asher Brown in Houston and a teen in Indiana who hung himself in his family’s barn. Then came another suicide in California, then Zack Harrington who killed himself after hearing anti-gay hate speech at a city council meeting in Norman, Okla.

“Someone should do something about this,” Burns said he told himself.

The Fort Worth City Council meets on Tuesday evenings with pre-council meetings held throughout the day. When Burns decided to tell his story, he told Angle, who advised against it.

“But I remember what it was like to be 13 and beaten up,” Burns said.

So when Angle realized there was no stopping Burns, he suggested that his partner write his speech down.

“J.D. said I suck extemporaneously,” Burns explained.

So Burns went home from the pre-council meeting and wrote a stream-of-consciousness account of what happened to him as a teenager. He said he had hoped to reach a few hundred people — those that actually watch Fort Worth City Council meetings online and those that sit through council meetings at City Hall.

But then local TV news stations broadcast portions of his speech, and then it was posted to YouTube. Burns called his parents as soon as he realized more people than just Fort Worth City Council junkies were watching it.

Inside Edition showed up at his parent’s house the next day.

Burns said that he’s closer to his family now than he’s ever been. He laughed about his parents’ differing reactions. He said his mother asked him if there was anything they could have done better and his father told him, “You need an alarm. And a gun.”

Burns said he had an hour-and-a-half conversation with his brother Cody that week as well, the longest conversation they had ever had. His brother was 15 years younger and so Burns was already out of the house through most of Cody’s life.

Burns said he cherishes that talk even more now because in March his brother was killed in a car accident.

When Burns spoke to the LEAGUE national convention in Dallas on Sept. 10, everyone attending had seen the YouTube video from the council meeting. As Burns told them the story behind the speech, the reaction was very emotional.

“I got beaten up everyday, not because I was gay but because I was Hispanic,” said Ernie Renteria, a LEAGUE member from Austin.

LEAGUE member Darrin Chin was attending from Los Angeles and said he first heard of Burns after speech at the council meeting.

“He’s a very inspiring person,” Chin said.

Chin and his partner have a 15-year-old adopted son. He said his son came out last year and they worry about him being the target of bullying.

Josh Hampshire of Bay City, Mich. said he was called everything from “sissy to the f-bomb. I was shoved into plenty of lockers.”

For him, he said, Burns’ speech really hit home.

“As someone who’s been on the edge, it really does get better,” Hampshire said. “I’m glad someone is looking out for our youth.”

One of LEAGUE’s youngest members is John Wakim of Providence, R.I. At 22, he’s already been with AT&T for five years. He said the company gives him a place where he feels safe for the first time in his life.

“I think everyone was bullied at school,” Wakim said. He agreed that things do get better for LGBT youth and that he can really relate to Burns’ story.

Burns said he has no idea how many young people may have benefited from his speech during the council meeting that night and his many appearances afterwards. But from the volume of calls and emails he has received, he said he does believe he’s made a difference.

But Burns said he is determined to not just use the video that went viral as platform for personal fame. He wants to make a real difference.

So when the Texas Legislature was in session this year, Burns lobbied House and Senate members with the parents of teen suicide victims Asher Brown. He said spending time with them was an honor, and Burns still tears up as he describes Asher’s mother’s anguish when she came home to a house wrapped in police tape.

In March, Burns also participated in a White House anti-bullying conference that he hopes will help set national standards for student safety in schools.

Burns said he is still surprised at the continued attention his council speech attracts, but that he realizes that his experience as a gay teen is a common one.

Burns said he learned from his experience that there are days that you’re supposed to fix the potholes but there’s a time when you have to speak out. He said that with two anti-bullying laws passed in Texas this year, “We’ve had amazing success here in Texas.”

For more information, go online to FortWorthGov.org/Government/District9.

To watch Joel Burns’ speech on being bullied, go to YouTube.com/Watch?v=ax96cghOnY4.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

In LEAGUE with equality

As the employee resource group prepares to turn 25, it celebrates equality gained at AT&T and focuses on anti-bullying efforts

Bates-McLemore.Theresa
Theresa Bates-McLemore

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

As Dallas prepares for the arrival of the national Out & Equal Workplace Advocates convention in October, LEAGUE, the LGBT employee resource group at AT&T, is making plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

The AT&T group was the original LGBT employee resource group, begun after the first March on Washington in 1987, and is a model that has been recreated since then across corporate America.

LEAGUE held its national convention at the Melrose Hotel in Oak Lawn on Sept. 9, and openly gay Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns spoke at the Saturday night awards program about his “It Gets Better” experience (see story, Page 27). The group is beginning to prepare its own “It Gets Better” materials on behalf of AT&T, and in Burns’ honor, the group made a donation to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Several awards were given to Dallas LEAGUE members during the convention last weekend.

National Executive of the Year went to Gary Fraundorfer, vice president of human resources, who was honored for re-evaluating all company HR policies to make sure AT&T’s policies treat LGBT employees equally.
Fraundorfer recently joined the Resource Center Dallas board of directors.
“Awards from employees mean the most because they’ll hold you the most accountable,” he said.

But Fraundorfer wanted LEAGUE members to know just how committed to equality the company is.

“We mean it when we say we want things to be equivalent for spouses and partners,” he said. “The goal is complete parity.”

Among AT&T’s 11 latest initiatives to ensure parity is the addition of gender reassignment surgery to the company insurance plan for the company’s transgender employees.

John Cramer, LEAGUE’s national public affairs director, was among the recipients of a “LEAGUE Cares about Bullying” award. He said that the company has rallied around the group’s anti-bullying efforts.

LEAGUE President Theresa Bates-McLemore said she’s heard from employees across the company thanking her for the group’s anti-bullying efforts.

“I’ve heard heartfelt stories from straight people who said, ‘We didn’t know how to do this,’” Bates-McLemore said.

Cramer said that bullying is not just a gay issue and the LEAGUE campaign is helping employees across the company and others outside of AT&T as well.

The new chapter of the year award went to Puerto Rico.

“They took the League Cares About Bullying initiative to a new level,” Bates-McLemore said.

That chapter created an “It Gets Better” public service campaign with Telemundo.

LEAGUE has 45 chapters across the country with about 750 members. Nationally, the group provides scholarships to at-risk LGBT youth and contributes to the “It Gets Better” campaign and has awarded about $150,000.

Locally, LEAGUE supports the community in Dallas with Black Tie Dinner tables. Team AT&T will participate in the Lone Star Ride. And earlier this year the group made a $5,000 contribution to Resource Center Dallas to support its communications technology needs.

And the group supports its members.

For LEAGUE member Mark Carden from Atlanta, the group has had a much more personal impact. He was already working at AT&T when he came out.

“LEAGUE made me feel more secure about myself and the workplace,” he said. “It helped me grow personally and professionally.”

Look for Cramer, Bates-McLemore and other Dallas LEAGUE members in the parade and at the festival in the park. They’ll ride in an AT&T eco-friendly vehicle down Cedar Springs and give out T-shirts and beads.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas