Issue Papers: Nondiscrimination in Business Activities
Church Council Actions
Freed in Christ: Nondiscrimination in Business Activities
RECOMMENDED by Advisory Committee on Corporate
Social Responsibility, January 22, 2004
ENDORSED by Division for Church in Society Board,
February 27, 2004
APPROVED by Church Council, April 16-18, 2004
UPDATED by Advisory Committee on Corporate
Social Responsibility, September 5, 2008
APPROVED by Church Council, November 2008
Historically the Lutheran church—the ELCA and its predecessor church bodies—have been committed to the support of human rights and the struggle against injustice. The ELCA—in the social statement “For Peace in God’s World” (pg. 14)—and the predecessor church bodies—in “Peace, Justice, and Human Rights” (ALC, 1972) and “Human Rights: Doing Justice in God’s World” (LCA, 1978)—support the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, calling for respect and dignity for each person, assurance of opportunity, and provision for participation in society.
Situations and obstacles detracting from this commitment to human rights are apparent in U.S. society. Discrimination occurs in many forms, including but not limited to, gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or gender identity and disability. For example, gender discrimination issues exist in the labor force. During the 1950s, women comprised 37% of the labor force. In 2003, wage gap research indicates women now comprise some 47% of the labor force, but continue to earn less. The wage gap is decreasing, but women still earn $0.76 for every dollar that men earn in comparable work situations. A report done by the Department of Labor in the mid-1990s describes the situation where equal access to executive level positions does not occur in the U.S. corporate sector for women and minorities. This phenomenon is called the “glass ceiling.” Gender issues also involve employment policies related to sexual orientation. Through 2007 20 states and the District of Columbia had amended their civil rights statutes to include non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In addition to the gender discrimination of the glass ceiling and other gender-related employment issues, racial and ethnic discrimination can occur in many places, from access to housing in certain neighborhoods to service in a restaurant. Disability discrimination issues pertain to employment, accommodation, and customer service, among others.
Workplace discrimination is not only an obstacle to be faced, but also results in significant shareholder burden due to the high cost of litigation and potential loss of contracts. For example: gender issues brought about a $47 million settlement at Rent a Center and a $31 million settlement at American Express. Racial and ethnic issues can bring about boycotts and major public relations concerns such as in the Denny’s case, which resulted in a consent decree based on patterns of racial discrimination. In 2002, Coca-Cola agreed to pay $4.2 million to women and minorities at its corporate headquarters and to make additional salary adjustments at its businesses in North America.
Despite laws to counter the problem, discrimination of all kinds still exists in the workforce. With current immigration patterns, the American work force continues to become more diverse, thus increasing the urgency that the injustices be addressed.
ELCA Social Policy
The first social statement of the ELCA, “The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective” (1991), set forth affirmations and commitments to guide this church’s participation in society. This document develops the church’s role to participate in social structures critically, to minister to human need with compassion and imagination, and to be a prophetic presence. In addition to advocating for justice and mercy in situations of brokenness, the church commits itself to remove obstacles of discrimination and indifference. The social statement “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture” (ELCA, 1993) further develops the role of the church and commits the church to “support legislation, ordinances, and resolutions that guarantee to all persons equally… opportunity for employment with fair compensation and possibilities for job training and education, apprenticeship, promotion, and union membership [as well as the] opportunity for business ownership [and] access to . . . insurance services . . .” (pg. 7). The ELCA Church Council action “Harassment, Assault, and Discrimination Due to Sexual Orientation” (1993) reaffirms the church’s historical position prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment, and services due to sexual orientation.
In 1999, the ELCA social statement “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All” continued this call by committing the church to hire without discrimination and further calls for similar practices for secular employers. In addition, the 1989 Churchwide Assembly declared racism a sin and called on the church’s members to address the destructive results of racism in all aspects of its life and work. Disability issues have been addressed by the church in a Churchwide Assembly action calling for awareness education.
Legislation in this country has been passed to address many areas of discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has addressed many individual employee concerns in this area. The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission Report recommended that both the public and private sectors work toward increased disclosure of diversity data. Most corporations have developed policies and programs to encourage diversity. Some reporting is occurring, mainly through Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO1) reports. Although still a minority, a quarter of the corporations in the U.S. are willing to release such data. The legal system is still dealing with many complaints in this area. Compensation awards resulting from litigation as mentioned in the background section of this paper will affect the bottom line for a company and shareholder value.
Resolution Guidelines for ELCA
· We support requests of corporations to report on progress concerning the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission’s business recommendations.
· We support requests of corporations to prepare a report on diversity and plans to increase diversity.
· We support requests to disclose a corporation’s EEO1 report.
· We support requests that the Board of Directors appoint a committee to review and report on the overall EEO1 diversity policies and practices.
· We support requests for the company to expand diversity on the Board of Directors through:
- Specific efforts to search for women and minority candidates;
- Issuance of a public statement on board inclusiveness; and
- Reports on efforts to encourage diversified representation on the board.
· We support requests for a corporation to implement the U.S. Department of Labor’s voluntary pay equity audit and to report on such audit.
· We support requests for a corporation’s EEO policy to be amended explicitly to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity discrimination.
· We support requests for a corporation to identify with and disassociate from any form of offensive imagery to the American Indian community (or other minority community) in products, advertising, endorsements, sponsorships, and promotions.
· We support requests for reports on policies concerning accommodation for persons with disabilities.
· We support requests for reports on accessibility guidelines for persons with disabilities.
Recommended by Advisory Committee for Corporate Social Responsibility, January 22, 2004
Endorsed by Division for Church in Society Board, February 27, 2004
Approved by Church Council, April 16-18, 2004
Updated by Advisory Committee for Corporate Social Responsibility, September 5, 2008
Approved by Church Council, November 2008 [CC08.xx]
 This report is not accessible publicly due to its proprietary nature, but specific data is available from the CS Corporate Social Responsibility office or the Board of Pensions, upon request.