ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has leveraged the influence of the state pension fund to prod a company it invests in to spell out its opposition to discrimination and harassment of employees based on gender identity.
The massive payroll processing company Paychex, headquartered near Rochester, has agreed to add to its policies after DiNapoli started to draw up a proposal to try to force a shareholders’ vote on the changes.
The company founded by former gubernatorial candidate B. Thomas Golisano is the latest of more than 30 companies that have voluntarily changed their written policies after the comptroller, as head of the state pension fund investing in the companies, prompted the issue.
“When we received the shareholder proposal presented to us by the New York State Office of the Comptroller, we reviewed it carefully and gave it thorough consideration,” said corporate communications Director Laura Saxb y Lynch. “Paychex is committed to equal employment opportunity, and our existing employment policies were already broadly written to include sexual orientation … however, we clarified our policies to specifically include gender identity, which is a legally protected category in some states.”
DiNapoli pushed for the anti-discrimination policies not only to protect employees, but also to protect companies and the state pension system’s investment against lawsuits and other actions.
“Providing equal opportunity for employees protects a corporation’s bottom line and enhances shareholder value,” DiNapoli said.
Article continues belowPaychex already protects gays under its policies. The agreement with DiNapoli means the company will voluntarily add gender identity, said Stephanie Schaeffer, vice president and chief legal officer and secretary at Paychex.
“Our intention is to make the revisions to our policies during the course of our annual employee handbook review,” Schaeffer said in a June 14 letter to DiNapoli.
The state pension fund owns about 972,396 shares of Paychex, valued at $36 million.
DiNapoli has pushed the issue at more than 30 other companies leveraging the investments in the $160.4 billion pension fund for state and local government retirees.
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