by Leah Waldron
We’ve all heard of corporate board members voting down LGBT anti-discrimination policies. This summer, Exxon-Mobile’s board vetoed an LGBT employee protection clause, and a Boy Scouts of America committee shot down the repeal of the gay scout leader ban. But should the CEO of a corporation—a business that undoubtedly employs LGBT individuals—spearhead an initiative to reverse a city’s LGBT workplace protection ordinance? In Omaha, Nebraska, a Tea Party-affiliated CEO is doing just that.
Meet Patrick Bonnett, the CEO of Omaha-based Encore Financial Services, Inc., and a man who is not afraid to keep LGBT employees out of his business model.
For a CEO, Bonnett has a lot of free time. His Tea Party group, which is known as the “Omaha Liberty Project,” announced this week that it will hire private petition collectors to grab the approximate 11,400 signatures needed to overturn Omaha’s anti-LGBT discrimination ordinance, which passed narrowly (4-3) in March of this year. The law bans LGBT discrimination in the workplace, turning away a job applicant because he identifies as LGBT, or refusing any other business service to a LGBT consumer. Bonnett’s petition initiative, if he reaches his signature goal, will overturn the current ordinance and force the issue to a public referendum vote. In other words, if Bonnett’s Tea Party group gets it’s way, Bonnett will never have to hire an LGBT employee again, and can refuse services to any LGBT consumer who knocks on his company door.
Ever wanted to work in Omaha? If Bonnett gets his way (and you’re gay), you may want to look elsewhere for work.
Like Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, Bonnett has made his position on gay rights crystal clear, and is not afraid to use his business connections (and profits) to push his homophobic agenda. But instead of simply donating to an anti-gay organizations, Bonnett is leading his own. The “Omaha Liberty Project” (an ironic name, since it seeks to overturn personal liberties) will jeopardize the already-fragile Omaha business environment, while taking away the rights of its LGBT citizens to obtain employment, go to work without fear of discrimination, or obtain services from local businesses. Taking away these “liberties” is a dangerous move for any organization, let alone one that is headed up by an Omaha business owner.
And what about the employees of Encore Financial Services, Inc.? According to the company’s profile on LinkedIn, EFS, Inc. is an insurance, investments and mortgage acceleration specialty business that employs 10 people. And judging by their now-available-for-purchase website (encorefinancialservices.com), business is not so good. Maybe if he reached out to the LGBT people in Omaha, instead of making it clear he approves of their discrimination, business would pick up.
Whether you own a multi-million-dollar fast food corporation or a small Omaha financial consulting company, the role of anti-gay whack job is not great for the professional resume. And you never know…the actions you take as CEO may end up biting you in the ass down the road.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Mitt Romney.