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COMPANY CULTURE

Is Gay Marriage a Workplace Issue?

Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy have made public their views about same-sex marriage. When it comes to my business and employees, I just try to do the right thing.

The fellowship that raised eyebrows

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There has been a firestorm of press lately as leaders of large, well-known companies take a stand on gay marriage.

First, in mid-July, the president of the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain (son of the company founder) made a statement about the company's support of the "biblical definition of marriage."  Will Chick-fil-A now sell a few less chicken sandwiches?  Probably.

Then Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos hit the news by pledging a $2.5 million donation to the campaign to defend Washington state's same-sex marriage law, the largest donation of its type.  Will that result in a few more online orders?  Probably.  Amazon joined companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, and Nike that have also publicly supported the bill.  

But why are we talking about this anyway?  It is probably safe to say that if a major business owner makes public his personal opinion about a social or political issue, that issue becomes a business topic--especially if the company involved makes religious values part of its operating principles, as is the case with Chick-fil-A.  But as entrepreneurs, should we be making business decisions based on social or political issues?

The fact is I don't think my views--including those on gay marriage--have much to do with my business.  I just try to do the right thing.

My company is headquartered in Texas, traditionally a very conservative state.  And I'm originally from California, known for being on the opposite site of the political spectrum.  But my approach to business and my employees transcends geography and political idealism.  I have always prioritized creating a workplace where my employees are happy, engaged, and loyal.  Does that mean good pay and benefits?  Of course.  Do we offer health benefits to those in a same-sex relationship?  Yes.  But am I making a political statement?  No.  I'm simply following the core value in my company which is described as, "doing the right thing."

One could argue that the government has forced into decisions like these because we have an employer-funded health care system.  You could also argue that if I didn't make "politically correct" choices, I might lose good employees to the competition.  To be honest, I don't spend much time thinking about those kinds of consequences.  I just try to make choices that I believe are in the best interests of my business, and my employees.

Bezos and his peers have made different choices by speaking out, and that's fine too.  I really don't think they're too worried about the impact on their businesses anyway.  Statements will be made, chicken sandwiches and Kindles will continue to be sold. It's up to individuals to decide which employer to choose, or which company to buy from.

Like me, Cathy and Bezos are just trying to do the right thing, as they see it.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2012

PAUL SPIEGELMAN | Columnist | CEO of BerylHealth

Paul Spiegelman is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. You can read more at PaulSpiegelman.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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