If I ran an ad agency, part 2

As I’ve said before, if I ran an advertising agency we would never produce ads that make the client’s customers look stupid or crazy. That means I would never have created this Acura ad:

The message of this ad seems to be that Acura drivers will embarrass themselves in front of their coworkers. Not a feature many people will want in a new car, I guess.

Baker, baker, bake me an anti-gay cake

I’ve written previously about anti-gay bakers who refused to make cakes for LGBT customers, claiming that it would infringe upon their religious liberty. Well now the religious right (footnote 1) by asking LGBT-friendly bakers to make cakes with anti-gay messages on them. When the bakers refuse, the so-called customers claim religious discrimination.

There’s a clear difference between the two sides here. The anti-gay bakers are refusing to make cakes based on who the customers are. The customers aren’t asking for any offensive messages to be put on the cakes.

On the other hand, the anti-LGBT side isn’t being refused because of who they are. They’re being refused because of the offensive message they want on the cakes. As the BuzzFeed article points out that the baker wasn’t promoting an anti-Christian viewpoint at all, and would happily bake a cake shaped like a bible.

By trying to portray themselves as the victims of discrimination, the right wing merely shines a light on the true victims — the LGBT community.

Footnote
1. Or, as I like to call them, the American Taliban.

Publix: A sign of things to come? (Probably not)

Publix Super Markets (which I have written about in the past) got a lot of applause from the LGBT community here in the South last month when it announced that it would begin offering spousal benefits to married same-sex couples.

Me in Publix, once again

Me in Publix, once again

It’s good news, to be sure, and my husband and I have even started shopping at Publix again (footnote 1). However, I wish this were a progressive move on on Publix’s part, not a defensive one. My contention is that Publix didn’t change its policy to be more fair to its LGBT employees, but because it didn’t want to find itself in court.

Imagine this: two Publix associates (one straight, one gay) get married. If Publix decides to offer spousal benefits to one employee and not to the other, isn’t that discrimination? Remember, these are spousal benefits, which nearly every major company offers, not domestic partner benefits, which are increasingly commonplace yet optional.

I asked my lawyer friends on Facebook whether Publix would be setting itself up for legal action by offering spousal benefits to some employees and not others, and there was not a lot of consensus. Some lawyers said that employers cannot discriminate against some marriages, while other says that companies can determine who does and doesn’t receive benefits. Since there’s some confusion, it’s likely that this issue will find its way to the courts — and Publix, a company very concerned with its public image, doesn’t want to be the target of a discrimination lawsuit.

Publix isn't touting the news on its corporate website

Publix isn’t touting the news on its corporate website

Whatever Publix’s reason for offering spousal benefits to all associates, I don’t think this move predicts a shift toward a more tolerant company. For one thing, Publix is clearly ashamed of its new policy, as it didn’t even announce it. Look at the company’s website and you’ll see that this news wasn’t even worthy of a press release.

For another, Publix hasn’t made any other overtures toward its LGBT employees and customers. It remains to be seen if the company will participate in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (footnote 2). I still don’t think Publix has a LGBT employee resource group, nor do I think the company is in any rush to begin one. And I certainly don’t think that Publix is going to reach out to LGBT customers by sponsoring LGBT-friendly events, such as Pride or the Tampa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Publix has taken an important first step, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of the company treating all its employees equally. What disappoints me is that Publix hasn’t indicated that it’s going to take any more steps in this direction. Prove me wrong, Publix!

Footnotes
1. Reluctantly
2. Publix regularly scores a zero because it doesn’t participate.

Shame on Saks! (Updated)

Until recently, chichi retailer Saks Fifth Avenue scored 90 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. That score is now in jeopardy, as Saks filed a legal brief that says it’s free to break its own anti-discrimination policies and not defend a transgender employee who claims discrimination and workplace harassment.

From the HRC:

Leyth Jamal, a transgender former employee of Saks, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging discrimination and harassment/hostile work environment based on her gender identity. In a motion to dismiss the case and in stark contrast to clearly established positions of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Saks astoundingly claimed that the “Plaintiff’s discrimination and harassment claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII.” Additionally, Saks goes on to claim that they are not bound by their own corporate non-discrimination policies because “employee handbooks are not contracts as a matter of law.”

This is the sort of behavior I’d expect from a Cracker Barrel or Chick-fil-A, not from a retailer with a very good record of treating its employees with dignity and respect. There’s no Saks Fifth Avenue in my hometown any more (footnote 1), but if there were, I wouldn’t be spending any of my money there.

Update
Saks has backed down and now says the Civil Rights Act protects transgender people.

Footnote
1. The space once occupied by Saks Fifth Avenue is now a Dick’s Sporting Goods. Which is appropriate, because with this anti-LGBT move, Saks has become a dick.

Happy New Year from Out Marketing!

Goodbye, 2014. I’ve got a lot to cover here at Out Marketing this year (footnote 1), and I’ll be back with new posts very soon. In the meantime, enjoy this video from New Year’s Eve in Helsinki, where my husband and I rang in 2015 with the Finns (footnote 2).

Footnotes
1. Starting with my take on Publix’s announcement that it will offer benefits to same-sex spouses.
2. You got Finns to the left / Finns to the right / And you’re the only gay in town.