The board of directors of Cracker Barrel restaurants announced Wednesday that it is adding sexual orientation to the list of characteristics covered by the company's nondiscrimination policy. The announcement ends a more-than-decade-long campaign on the part of gay rights advocates who have been pressuring the restaurant chain because of its policy of firing employees who fail to "demonstrate normal heterosexual values."
"This small step has enormous significance for every gay or lesbian employee who has ever experienced job discrimination," said Kim I. Mills, education director for the Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign. "Cracker Barrel has undergone important cultural changes in the last 10 years but until now has resisted rewriting its nondiscrimination policy. This long-awaited change is a watershed, and we welcome it."
The board of CBRL Group Inc., parent company of Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores and Logan's Roadhouse restaurants, voted unanimously to change the policy following its annual shareholder meeting November 26. A shareholder proposal to add sexual orientation to the company's nondiscrimination policy would have received a majority of the votes cast, a company official told HRC, but because no sponsor was present at the meeting to introduce the proposal, no formal vote was held. CBRL Group Inc. is based in Old Lebanon, Tenn.
Cracker Barrel drew national attention in 1991 when it instituted a company policy that called for terminating employees "whose sexual preferences fail to demonstrate normal heterosexual values which have been the foundation of families in our society." At least 11 workers were fired as a result. The company's blatant discrimination--which was legal in the states where it occurred and remains legal under federal law--touched off a wave of protests and boycotts at Cracker Barrel restaurants. Cracker Barrel later revoked the policy, which it once described as a "well-intentioned overreaction to the perceived values of our customers," but until now had not expressly protected gay employees from workplace discrimination.