Leading US truck company JB Hunt Transport Services, which has 16,000 drivers woeking across the US, had advised its investors not to vote for the company to introduce specific LGBT discrimination protections.
JB Hunt will hold its annual shareholder meeting in its home state of Arkansas today. Shareholders are able to propose measures to be implemented by the company.
One of those proposals is for the company to introduce specific anti-discrimination protections for LGBT employees. The proposal has been put forward by Boston-based Trillium Asset Management LLC.
Brianna Murphy, head of shareholder advocacy for Trillium, which holds 172,000 shares in JB Hunt, told Bloomberg ‘The trucking business requires employees to travel all over the country, and without a company-wide policy, the employees are at the mercy of the patchwork of state and local policies.’
The proposal states: ‘Stockholders request that the Company amend its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression and to take substantial action to implement the policy.’
In its supporting statements it’s noted that 61% of Fortune 500 companies have such explicit protections listed in their policies, and that ‘corporations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression have a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employees from the widest talent pool.’
‘We are concerned the Company may be lagging behind peers with comprehensive equal employment opportunity policies,’ say supporters.
‘According to the Human Rights Campaign, many companies in the transportation services space, such as CSX, Union Pacific, United Parcel Service, and FedEx Corp. explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in their written policies.’
When investors have proposed similar polices to other companies, most have introduced them without taking the matter to a vote. However, according to ISS Voting Analytics, JB Hunt is the first one in 2016 to take the matter to a shareholder ballot.
In proxy materials ahead of today’s meeting, JB Hunt calls the measure ‘unnecessary … the Company’s current policy and practice more than achieve the objectives of this proposal.
‘As an equal opportunity employer, the Company is firmly committed to operating its business in full compliance with applicable employment laws and providing each of our employees with a workplace free from unlawful discrimination or harassment of any kind.
‘The stockholder proposal resolution implies that additional action is necessary to implement the resolution. The Company disagrees.
‘The Company has not received indications from its employees that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is practiced within the Company, nor has the Company received notice from its employees, vendors, clients or customers that the Company’s employment policies or practices jeopardize its relationship with any of them.’
It points toward the company’s current harassment and discrimination policy, which states that ‘Harassment of J.B. Hunt personnel, sexual or otherwise, will not be tolerated at J.B. Hunt from anyone, including supervisors, co-workers, managers, vendors, clients or customers.’
Those proposing the change in policy say that as there is no federal law protecting LGBT employees, and only 22 states offer specific employment protection with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity, JB Hunt’s commitment to complying with applicable laws is not enough.
This view was backed up by HRC. Beck Bailey, its deputy director of employment engagement, told Bloomberg, ‘There are strong reasons to be a leader from a business point of view. Companies that are ahead of the curve find it’s good for talent acquisition, retention and employee engagement.’
Last week, a new report by Credit Suisse said that companies that promoted LGBT diversity and inclusion within their ranks performed better than those that did not, boosting cash flow returns and return of equity by 10-21%.
Gay Star News has approached JB Hunt for comment.