Basic Rights Education Fund will recognize Oregon-based businesses Salt & Straw and Wieden+Kennedy for their leadership in promoting fair and affirming workplaces for transgender employees and employees of color. 

These companies will be honored at the 24th annual Oregonians Against Discrimination Leadership Luncheon to be held Thursday, April 20 at the Oregon Convention Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

“Oregon’s business community is on the forefront of ensuring fairness and equality in the work environment broadly around LGBTQ employees,” said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, Co-Executive Director of Basic Rights Education Fund. “We’re thrilled to honor two great Oregon companies demonstrating bold leadership in creating Fair Workplaces–Salt & Straw and Wieden+Kennedy.”

For more than two decades Basic Rights has recognized organizations and individuals for their leadership in advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Oregonians. The 2017 honorees, Salt & Straw and Wieden+Kennedy, have unique and important stories. 
Salt & Straw was founded five years ago by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek, with its first store on Northeast Alberta Street in Portland. Since then, the company has grown to four stores in Portland and five in California, with a few others planned. Despite its size, it provides affordable health care to part-time employees, including access to gender affirming care for transgender employees, access to birth control and family planning, and three months parental leave for both parents. It also works with employees to tackle issues of racism and create a more affirming state for the LGBTQ community. 

Wieden+W+K_LogoKennedy is a global independent advertising agency well known for its bold and provocative storytelling. The firm has eight offices worldwide, and its flagship office is in Portland.

Through its client work, Wieden+Kennedy recently produced two groundbreaking ads on the experiences of transgender people—one about Nike-sponsored athlete Chris Mosier and one for Proctor & Gamble’s Secret brand featuring a transgender woman in the bathroom.

Internally, W+K continues to adapt its systems and culture to foster a workplace that celebrates people and nurtures a culture of difference with the belief that differences make it stronger. The foundation of this effort is Courageous Conversations, a multiday diversity workshop for employees that helps people get comfortable with the uncomfortable, inspire deeper consciousness about race, and provide tools needed to talk candidly about and understand the impact of race in our lives.

The work of employers like Salt & Straw and Wieden+Kennedy is critical to creating fair workplaces in Oregon. Employment discrimination remains a significant challenge for transgender people—in the 2015 US Trans Survey more than three-quarters (77%) of respondents who had a job in the past year reported taking steps to avoid mistreatment in the workplace, such as hiding or delaying their gender transition or quitting their job.

To address the fears of transgender people and reduce discrimination, Basic Rights re-launched its Fair Workplace Project in 2016, an employer training program that helps employees build familiarity with concepts and terms, learn what it means to be a transgender ally; provides an overview of legal protections; and details how companies can support an employee who is transitioning at work. To date, Basic Rights Oregon has trained 14 employers in education, government and the private sector. 

Two decades ago, Basic Rights Oregon’s original Fair Workplace Project helped dramatically shift state support for LGBTQ equality by helping employers create affirming workplaces. We also asked businesses to pledge their opposition to discrimination and more than 400 Oregon businesses signed on. These businesses were instrumental in passing the 2007 Oregon Equality Act, which today remains one of the nation’s strongest LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws in the country.