Viacom Signs Historic Legal Petition Defending LGBT Rights

by Lisa Di Venuta
Jul 14, 2017 8:05 AM ET
Blog

No one deserves to be fired for their sexual orientation.

This is the logic behind Viacom and 49 other companies’ decision to sign a formal legal petition asking the U.S. 2nd  Court of Appeals to extend a federal law prohibiting employers from firing workers for being gay. This is the first time businesses have explicitly taken this position, according to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan campaign group that Viacom consulted with on this issue.

“All Americans deserve the right to go to work and provide for their families without having to fear that they might lose their job simply because of who they are,” said Freedom for All Americans Acting CEO Katie Belanger in an email to Viacom.

“Unfortunately, most states do not have laws explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT individuals. That is why this case is so important. We are grateful for the leadership of Viacom and the 49 other businesses who have called on the court to ensure the fair and equal treatment of gay and bisexual employees,” said Belanger.

Viacom joined Microsoft, Google, Lyft and other large corporations in urging the court to overturn the ruling in Zarda v. Altitude Express, a case in which a gay skydiving instructor claimed he had been fired after telling a client about his sexual orientation.

In April, the court ruled in favor of his employer, determining that though the Civil Rights act of 1964 bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, this protection doesn’t extend to include sexual orientation. Just weeks prior to this decision, a federal appeals court came to the opposite conclusion.

Viacom and the 49 other companies who signed this petition are making it known that many in corporate America will not tolerate sexual orientation-based discrimination. Our company sees protecting employees as a priority and one that is beneficial to business – a concept supported by the brief.

“Recognizing that our uniform federal law protects LGBT employees would benefit individual businesses, and the economy as a whole, by removing an artificial barrier to the recruitment, retention, and free flow of talent,” wrote the companies’ lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in an email to The New York Times.

Viacom Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs Rick Baker agrees. “Viacom is proud to sign onto this very important amicus brief to the Second Circuit in support of ending discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace,” said Baker.

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not welcome at Viacom and that should be the standard in all workplaces in our country. As we all know, Viacom is firmly committed to fostering diverse, creative spaces and ensuring that all of our employees feel safe and comfortable to express themselves – and Viacom’s support in this matter only highlights that commitment. By joining 49 other companies in signing onto this amicus brief, we hope this moves the dial even further in favor of diverse and inclusive workplaces.”

Signing this petition is just one of many ways our company uses its prominent media standing to enact social change. Last year, Viacom joined other key entertainment companies in signing a letter written by GLAAD (the world’s largest LGBT media advocacy organization) that labeled North Carolina’s discriminatory bathroom bill “simply unacceptable.”

In honor of Pride Month, Viacom’s LGBT-inspired network Logo issued a list of Trailblazing Companies to promote fellow corporations who displayed extraordinary inclusion and support of the LGBT community.

For more on Viacom’s social justice initiatives, click here.

About Viacom

Viacom is home to premier global media brands that create compelling television programs, motion pictures, short-form content, apps, games, consumer products, social media experiences, and other entertainment content for audiences in more than 180 countries. Viacom's media networks, including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, Spike, BET, CMT, TV Land, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., Logo, Nicktoons, TeenNick, Channel 5 (UK), Telefe (Argentina) and Paramount Channel, reach over 3.9 billion cumulative television subscribers worldwide. Paramount Pictures is a major global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment.

For more information about Viacom and its businesses, visit www.viacom.com. Keep up with Viacom news by following Viacom's blog at blog.viacom.com and Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/viacom.