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Let's go back to Friday June 12th, 2020.
Normally a Friday indicates the end of the workweek but because of the pandemic, thousands of American employees, in as many industries, were working from home. Children stayed in from school. Stores and shopping malls, libraries, swimming pools, restaurants and bars were closed. And on this particular date, on the fourth anniversary of the attack on Pulse Nightclub and a day during LGBT+ Pride Month, millions of people were tuned to their laptops, televisions and cell phones waiting for news from Capitol Hill.
Deliberating since May, the American government was reviewing the official definition of the word gender in relation to health care access.
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government's interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word “sex” as male or female and as determined by biology.”***
The announcement landed with all of the grace of a hand grenade: the Trump administration decided to reverse non-discrimination protections for transgender people in health care: a move that affects 1.7 million Americans who identify as such, as reported by AJPH, a publication by the American Health Association.
“HERE has always been committed to fostering an inclusive culture. And with the launch of HERE Pride [in 2019], we will be nurturing it further with our own ongoing support for the LGBT+ community.”—Roshni Rao, Ally, HERE Pride India, Mumbai
In the middle of a global pandemic, and in a time when LGBT+ people still experience prejudice at disproportionate rates when seeking medical attention, the verdict is nothing less than dangerous.
The HHS may have eliminated parts of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits bias based on race, color, origin, sex, age, or disability however HERE's U.S. employee medical plans remain unchanged.
“We believe every person deserves access to healthcare without discrimination. At HERE we will continue to protect healthcare access under our medical plans for LGBT+ employees even with the U.S. Health & Human Services rolls back of critical healthcare protections for LGBT+ people,” declared Martha Torres, Vice President of Total Rewards, HERE's healthcare partner.
Now, approximately one month after, HERE stands tall as an ally to LGBT+ communities around the world, boldly celebrating Pride 2020.
HERE believes an ally is someone who understands the privileges they have and uses them to support and protect those without access to the same.
As a company, allyship is about being a better corporate citizen and ensuring that the business HERE represents is one that everyone can be proud of, where each individual feels they belong and can build a successful career.
When HERE practices allyship — by being a sponsor, amplifier, upstander or confidant — they aim to build inclusion. HERE works to make sure that all voices are included. In June of 2019, HERE joined more than 200 organizations in signing the amicus brief in the Supreme Court case advocating for LGBT+ employee rights. This action directly influenced the court's recent decision to protect LGBT+ people from worker discrimination.
"Inclusion has always been an important part of HERE's culture - and with the launch of the HERE Pride ERG in 2019 we are committed to listen to LGBT+ voices internally and externally to help meet the adapting needs of the LGBT+ community, wherever they are in the world," Patrick Duvall, founder of the HERE Pride ERG.
Also this year, HERE celebrated Pride 2020 with its first ever fully digital Pride Week.
Between June 22- 26 the HERE Pride ERG (employee resource group) in allyship with other ERGS across the company presented an employee-led schedule of programming dedicated to commemorating LGBT+ culture, innovation and history. Activities presented under the theme LGBT+ Creativity & Innovation included:
Like everyone, the LGBT+ community want and need the support of those around them, and to acknowledge their unique lived experience. Kajal Thakur*, member of the LGBT+ community in Mumbai India says it best: “We want to be heard.”
Karen Matijak, HERE Pride Executive Sponsor
“Our goal as an organization is to uplift LGBT+ communities both inside and outside the company, share LGBT+ history, creativity, culture and most importantly, to foster an inclusive working environment at HERE to make sure everyone can be their authentic self when they come to work.” Karen Matijak**, HERE Pride Executive Sponsor.
While international Pride events were called off around the world due to coronavirus restrictions the activism, the spirit, of HERE Pride endured. Where online celebrations replaced traditional marches HERE Pride was able to show its boldness, making decisions to help drive innovation, prioritize the needs of its LGBT+ members and embrace its global community through programming, advocacy and allyship.
LGBT+ activism has perhaps never been more important, and HERE is proud to be an ally.
Another digital event, Cafecito, celebrated historical trailblazers who exemplify the intersectionality of the LGBT+ and LatinX community and allies.
*Kajal Thakur and Zunaid Ansari were interviewed by HERE Pride Mumbai India
** Source: Karen Matijak, HERE Pride company video, June 21st, 2020
*** Source, HHS Press Office
Photo gallery below: During Pride 2020, HERE colleagues, including Patrick Duvall, founder of the HERE Pride ERG, Michelle Tellez [HERE Léon], Katherine Aanensen [HERE Chicago] and Juliane Groß [HERE Berlin] showed their creativity by participating in a "selfie frame contest".