Winn-Dixie Amends Policy for Gays; Won't Discriminate Sexual Orientation

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY RICHARDS, The Times-Union

The Friday decision by Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. to amend its non-discrimination policy to include protection for its gay and lesbian workers was met by cheers from groups advocating civil and human rights. It's the latest in a growing number of large corporations to make such a change.

But one organization questioned why the Jacksonville-based grocery store chain did not spell out protection for transgender employees, which Winn-Dixie says are also covered by the policy. The company was sued in 2000 by a male employee at a Louisiana store who said he was fired because of his after-work pastime of wearing women's clothes. The case was decided in favor of Winn-Dixie.

"It's terrific and it's long overdue," said Joe Cook, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, which filed the suit. "That should be the law of the land."

"They're joining the majority of smart companies that are figuring out that discrimination isn't only wrong but that it's not profitable," said Brian Winfield, spokesman for Equality Florida, a Tampa-based organization representing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.

The action came as a result of a push by New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr., representing two of that city's pension funds that hold $1.57 million in Winn-Dixie stock. Thompson has a campaign under way to persuade Fortune 500 companies to adopt policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation because federal laws do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. In December, Thompson announced that Jacksonville's CSX Corp. had added similar protection. …