FedEx Grants Transgendered Employees 'Special Protected Status'

FedEx delivers the goods for transgenderedJim Brown - OneNewsNow - 7/13/2009 6:00:00 AM Without a vote from shareholders, one of America's largest corporations has decided to grant its transgender employees special protected status.

Memphis-based FedEx has agreed to implement a shareholder resolution proposed by Huffington Post blogger Sara Whitman that would add "gender identity" to the company's non-discrimination policy. Whitman is a self-proclaimed "married lesbian mother of three boys" in Massachusetts.

The resolution was filed on Whitman's behalf by Julie Goodridge, CEO of NorthStar Asset Management. Goodridge was the lead plaintiff in the well-known lawsuit (Goodridge v. Department of Public Health) that led to the legalization of same-sex "marriage" in Massachusetts. Earlier this year, she and her lesbian partner filed for divorce.

Goodridge says FedEx management did not feel shareholder approval of the gender-identity resolution was necessary. "They gave us a call and said that they had read through our policy and decided to enact the policy -- and on that basis we decided to withdraw our resolution," she explains.

Goodridge says adding gender identity to the non-discrimination policy is not a controversial move by the shipping company, but rather the equivalent of protecting workers from racial discrimination.

"They had within I think the last seven years or so added non-discrimination [on the basis of] sexual orientation as a protective status at their company," says Goodridge, "and they wanted to be as forthright as possible in protecting all of their employees who contribute to the value of the company."

Although FedEx includes sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy, it does not provide benefits for same-sex partners firm-wide, including to married same-sex couples. As a result, the company received only a 55 out of 100 rating in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. That rating is likely to improve next year. FedEx, which employs more than a quarter of a million workers, did not respond to OneNewsNow's request for an interview.

Goodridge says she is now "interested in talking with FedEx" about adding the term "gender expression" to its non-discrimination language. Her portfolio management company has been highly successful in persuading Fortune 500 companies to provide special workplace protections for their homosexual employees.

In a letter to SEC chairman Christopher Cox in 2007, she boasted that NorthStar Asset Management had "been instrumental in creating more just and fair workplaces for thousands of gay and lesbian workers at companies like Berkshire Hathaway, Caterpillar, Emerson Electric, Fifth Third Bancorp, and FedEx."

In the very same letter, she urged the SEC not to eliminate or further restrict "the right of shareowners to sponsor advisory resolutions."