Apple CEO Tim Cook Urges Congress To Protect LGBT Workers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple announcement at the Yerba Buena Center for the Art
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 22: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple announcement at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The tech giant announced its new iPad Air, a new iPad mini with Retina display, OS X Mavericks and highlighted its Mac Pro. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Protecting LGBT workers from discrimination isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s good for business, according to Tim Cook.

In a Sunday Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Apple CEO urged Senators to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a provision that would offer LGBT employees protection against discrimination in the workplace. Currently, employers can’t fire workers on the basis of race, religion, sex or disability, but there’s no such protection for sexual orientation or identity in the majority of states.

“Embracing people's individuality is a matter of basic human dignity and civil rights. It also turns out to be great for the creativity that drives our business,” Cook wrote. “We've found that when people feel valued for who they are, they have the comfort and confidence to do the best work of their lives.”

Even as Cook and President Obama push for lawmakers to guarantee LGBT workplace protections, many people don't even realize they're necessary. The majority of Americans don’t know that LGBT discrimination in the workplace is legal, and only half say they’d support a law banning it, according to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll.

As tech blog ValleyWag notes, it's possible Cook knows the realities of LGBT workplace discrimination all too well. He's been near the top of Out Magazine's gay power list for the past couple of years, but has never discussed his sexual orientation openly.

Still, his position on LGBT rights is not especially unique in the corporate world. Business leaders have also used arguments similar to Cook's -- that stymying the rights of LGBT workers, hurts employee productivity and companies' ability to compete -- in pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Today, the majority of Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, go beyond what is mandated by banning discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers.

But despite that support, LGBT employees still face hurdles in the workplace. They struggle with higher levels of unemployment, make less on average and in many cases can feel uncomfortable being their true selves in the workplace.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday that he opposes the nondiscrimination bill, arguing it would “increase frivolous litigation.”



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