Monday, November 24, 2008

What Do You When Human Resources is a Bigot?

Does Personal Belief Equate to Professional Bias?

As part of my job, I spend a lot of time surfing the web. Much of what I do involves keeping up with business trends and practices. It also involves tracking political events and keeping current with current events.

To do this, I use Google alerts and Google Reader to collect RSS feeds from many different sources and aggregate them to a central point that lets me sort quickly through a huge amount of information every day.

Today I ran across a blog post that turned up from a Google alert that struck me for more than one reason. The post was on a web site called Guy Dads. The blog tag line is "Two married Jewish gay dads, their six children, and life on the town. Plus a dose of social action and gay activism." The most recent post was one dealing with California Ballot Proposition 8 which was recently passed, banning same sex marriage in that state.

The title of the blog post stopped me in my blog surfing tracks. It was:

When HR (Human Resources) attacks gays. Yes to H8

In thirty states it is legal to fire someone for being gay or assumed to be gay but not here in California. This state has enacted statutes barring sexual-orientation discrimination in the workplace. In many companies it is the function of the HR department to administer, train, and educate the employees about the laws and policies. They cover workplace harassment and discrimination, diversity training, and compliance with state and federal laws. It is the responsibility of human resource managers to conduct these activities in an effective, legal, fair, and consistent manner.

What do you do if the person in HR is a bigot, supports discrimination, fears homosexuals, or believes in church over state in the workplace?

I think it is important to ask management if the HR person’s actions are damaging the reputation and goodwill of the company.

Let’s look at some HR people in California that contributed to the “Yes on 8” campaign that striped rights away from gays and lesbians.

One of the most outrageous is the HR person at NetApp. [ name removed]lists her occupation as “HR Operations”. She made two donations. One was for $5,000 and another for $25,000. She gave away $30,000 to say YES to discriminate and take rights away from same-sex couples.

She must really dislike gays.

Employers of individuals making contributions in support of proposition 8 who get named in the blog besides NetApp include Blue Coat Systems, Cannon Fabrication, Chevron, City of Livermore, City of San Clemente, Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly & Co., Gen-Probe Inc, Graphtec America, Imax, Infogain, Irvine Scientific, Kaiser Permanente, Kakimoto & Nagashima LLP, Kyocera Wireless Corp, Life Generations Healthcare, LSI Corp., Mindspeed Tech, Moreno Valley Unified, Newport Corporation, Northgate Gonzalez Market, Orange County, Rogers Poultry Co, Sharp Healthcare, Shell Oil, Sheraton Hotel, St. Jude Medical, UPS, USA Presort, and Whole Foods Market.

You can see the complete list of the names of the HR people who donated, and the amount they donated here if you wish.

It is important to remember, even though this blog post combines the names of employees with their employer, there is no established correlation between a donation made by an individual and the position (or lack of one) by their employer on any specific issue, including ballot proposals like Proposition 8.

What stopped me in my tracks was not seeing information utilized in this manner. I see that all the time. What surprised me was how many Human Resources professionals were willing to create an open public record on such a controversial topic. Even if you have a strongly held personal belief on a topic like gay marriage, it seems to me that as an HR professional some caution is required.

Here is one reason why:

What do you do if the person in HR is a bigot, supports discrimination, fears homosexuals, or believes in church over state in the workplace?

I think it is important to ask management if the HR person’s actions are damaging the reputation and goodwill of the company.
You certainly leave yourself open to questions like those posed above by the blogger in Guy Dads.

What would stop plaintiffs counsel from using these types of public records in discovery if you were involved in litigation over sexual or religious harassment or any number of other issues? (Answer free of charge: not a damn thing)

There is no shortage of ways that such information could come back to bite you in the ass.

The database used to collect this information was found at database ( The blog post encourages readers to check to see if their accountant, insurance agent, realtor, dentist, or lawyer is on the list of supporters of “Yes on H8”.

There are many of these types of search tools available. Another database for campaign contributions can be found on the Huffington Post by clicking here.

I am not advocating that people should not take positions on issues or exercise their civic rights. I am just pointing out that sometimes there is an overlap between work place issues and personal opinions and even if you don't let it affect your work decisions, sometimes it may come back to haunt you, or in this case, an employer who had no choice in even being involved as a result of your actions.

For the record, I would not have been in favor of Proposition 8, and voted against a similar ballot proposal in my own state of Florida.


  1. Thanks for the link and mention. My reasons for researching and listing donors to the Yes on 8 are two fold. First, the Yes people tried to blackmail and shake down..."out" major donors that supported the No campaign. But more importantly, the Yes on 8 campaign was all about trying to instill public fear and hatred of gays and lesbians. The campaign collected and spent millions of dollars to get this message out. Not so long ago you could make similar fear mongering statements openly about Jews or Blacks and other minorities. One could openly support causes that were hostile to these minority groups. Today it is no longer widely acceptable. Gays are the only group you can bash in public and get away with it. It is time for that to stop. One way is to shame these people in public so they don’t do it again.

  2. The post on your site was quite thought provoking. One of these days we will move past these issues as a society.

    I hope I was able to frame your perspective properly while reframing the story around the implications to the HR profession.



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