It's not uncommon for a CEO to run into a situation where a profitable business move is also one that goes against their values, beliefs and -- most importantly -- what's best for their employees. PayPal's President and CEO, Dan Schulman, knows this all too well.
In late March, PayPal announced its plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte, but the recent passing of the North Carolina "bathroom bill" has PayPal quickly changing its mind. The company recently announced it would no longer be opening its Charlotte facility (which was expected to employ around 400 people) because of the controversial Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act that was just passed. Although it may have been easier to turn a blind eye and continue with the original plans, Schulman believes "becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of [PayPal's] teams will not have equal rights under the law," goes against the company's values and principles.
PayPal has consistently been a supporter of the LGBT community and, as a well-known global company, their willingness to make such a decision should be a wake-up call for other businesses and business owners. We are still far from eliminating inequality entirely, but when state or federal governments pass laws that are discriminatory in nature, we need more companies to fight back like PayPal. We need more companies to choose people over profits.
PayPal's decision is arguably the loudest response yet from a company of its size, but the mission to overcome discrimination in the workplace is nothing new. Organizations like Executive Pride strive to advance equal rights, opportunity and awareness for LGBT members of the business community. Even executives of companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are openly standing up for LGBT rights and workplace equality.
It doesn't take a Fortune 500 company to fight back, though. The state of Mississippi and Gov. Phil Bryant are experiencing similar backlash this week as Bryant also signed a so-called "religious freedom" bill Tuesday. Instead of receiving criticism from big business though, Mississippi is taking a hit to tourism. The Mississippi Tourism Association, which represents Mississippi's 4th largest industry, posted on its Facebook page Thursday that people are already "cancelling or postponing trips to Mississippi."
The path to equal rights may be a long one, but it's apparent that companies and businesses, big or small, can make an impactful difference. The efforts from companies like AT&T and Bank of America have been so effective that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal recently vetoed a religious liberties bill known to be anti-gay. Deal made the right call considering the NFL threatened to skip over Atlanta as the host of future Super Bowls, and icons from the movie industry (which contributes billions to the state's economy annually) said they would cease production in the state. I can't say the same for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who might be wishing he took a similar route.
It's clear that bigotry is a lose-lose for businesses and governments alike. North Carolina lost a new employer and a growing technology business, 400 job seekers lost the opportunity to work for a prominent company in one of the fastest growing cities in America and PayPal lost hefty tax incentives and state grants. But for PayPal, the decision to stand up for equality was a "clear and unambiguous one."
After all, choosing profits over your company's values and beliefs is not only bad for employees, but also bad for business. It sends the wrong message and certainly does not go unnoticed. So thank you, PayPal, for not abandoning the principles on which your company was founded in the name of financial gain.