Equity Foundation Liquidates Aflac Stocks for Failure to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

Portland-based Equity Foundation recently liquidated all its investments in Aflac Incorporated following a year-long effort that failed to persuade the insurance company to consider extending domestic partnership benefits to its employees.

The foundation, which helps fund scholarships and organizations benefiting the LGBTQ community, took action Sept. 28 after its petition and shareholder resolution (outlining how adding the benefits would be good for Aflac’s business) went unheeded.

In the resolution, Equity highlighted competitors who do offer equal benefits to domestic partners:

The proponents believe that companies who choose not to discriminate in the extension of benefits to same-sex domestic partners gain a competitive edge in recruitment and retention. The equal provision of benefits sends a message of respect and inclusion, and conveys a tangible commitment to the principle that equal work deserves equal pay.

Aflac does not extend same-sex domestic partner benefits to its employees. Companies in the insurance industry that do include Aetna, AIG, Chubb, The Hartford, ING North America, MetLife, Nationwide, Unum, State Farm, Wellpoint, Humana, Cigna and others.

However, Aflac declined to even put the benefits to a vote.

These efforts are not uncommon for Equity Foundation and have, in the past, seen some success. According to a release, Equity Foundation in partnership with Trillium Asset Management, LLC in Boston persuaded home improvement chain Lowe’s to include “gender identity” in its hiring nondiscrimination policies.

“In leading this effort, it was our hope that Aflac would embrace same-sex domestic partnership benefits
for its employees and foster a more diverse corporate culture,” Peter Cunningham, Equity Foundation Executive Director said. “Equity Foundation exists not just as a grant making organization, but to also help change the corporate
world — it means that our donors’ dollars help change society in more than one way.”

Want to help fill gap left by the Aflac duck’s departure? Equity Foundation is hosting its annual Halloween party BENT on Oct. 27. The event will include a cabaret show and dance party. For more information, visit Equity’s website and check out the Oct. issue of PQ Monthly.

Erin Rook is PQ’s web editor and a regular contributor to the print edition. You can contact Erin at erin@pqmonthly.com.