Activists Pressure Barilla to Add LGBT Employee Protections

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com September 27 2013 2:08 PM ET

LGBT organizations are urging Barilla Group to include protections for LGBT employees and job candidates, following controversial antigay remarks made by the company’s chairman.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, a workplace advocacy group, is calling on Barilla Group and its subsidiary Barilla Pasta to amend its equal employment opportunity policy to include LGBT people. At present, the policy prohibits discrimation based on race and religion, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

“If Barilla is serious about including LGBT people at the dinner table, they should also give LGBT employees a fair shot to contribute in the workplace,” Almeida said in a statement. “We urge the Barilla Group to update their equal employment opportunity policy to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, just as it already bans racial and religious discrimination.”

The pressure from LGBT advocacy groups follows antigay remarks made by Barilla Group chairman Guido Barillo, in which he claimed that the world's largest pasta producer will never feature gay couples in its advertisements. 

"I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual couple, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them," Barilla said. "Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role. … If [gays] don't like it, they can go eat another brand."

After widespread backlash, Guido Barilla made an effort to walk back his antigay comments in a statement published on Barilla's website Thursday evening in Italy. Trying to stress the company's "respect" for LGBT people, he said his comments were only meant to stress the importance of the woman in the family. He also said he "has the utmost respect for gay people," and that he "respect[s] gay marriages."

"I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they hurt someone’s sensitivity," reads the statement. "I have the utmost respect for anyone, without distinction of any kind. … In its advertising, Barilla represents the family — because it’s what welcomes everyone."

A number of petitions protesting Barilla have been posted online, urging a boycott of the company.