Lockheed Reverses Course on Discrimination Policy, Gay Worker Benefits

November 27, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The nation's largest defense contractor has added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination policy and plans to offer health benefits to domestic partners of gay employees.

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s latest pronouncement represents an about-face from last year. Lockheed’s board recommended that shareholders reject a proposal to add sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination policies. Shareholders turned down the proposal.

According to a Washington Post report, chief executive officer Vance Coffman made the announcement about the new policy in an e-mail sent to the Bethesda, Maryland company’s 125,000 employees. Coffman said the decision was made by the company’s executive council, which Coffman had put together to address corporate diversity questions.

“I ask you to give your unwavering support to a company that values the contributions of all employees,” Coffman wrote, according to the Post.

In August, Lockheed received a “zero” rating from the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C. gay advocacy group. The group said the company’s anti-discrimination policies were inadequate to meet the needs of its gay employees.

Kim Mills, the group’s education director, said many gay employees at Lockheed were “ecstatic” with news of the reversal. “We’ve gotten e-mails peppered with exclamation points,” she told the Post.

Spokeswoman Meghan Mariman told the Post that Lockheed decided not to embrace the idea at the time of the shareholders’ vote last year because company officials did not think it was necessary.

“We chose not to change our policy because we felt we didn’t need to list every single way our employees are different,” Mariman said.

Lockheed’s position changed, she said, because so many of the company’s competitors — including Honeywell International, Boeing Co., Raytheon Co., International Business Machines Corp. and Microsoft Corp. — added sexual-orientation policies and domestic-partner benefits, and Lockheed began to worry that it would lose valuable employees to them.