Zions pledges to amend policy to protect gays

Monday May 10, 2010
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Zions Bancorp’s board is pledging to prohibit discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Several weeks ago, the board was opposing a measure to amend its anti-discrimination policy.

"Initially the board felt that since Zions already had a zero-tolerance policy in place prohibiting any kind of discrimination, the additional language wasn’t necessary," said spokesman Rob Brough.

But the board has since become concerned that its stand might send the wrong message and somehow imply that the company was unwilling to fully protect certain employees, Brough said.

The board is now planning to amend the Salt Lake City company’s equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In early April, investors represented by the New York City comptroller said Zions Bancorp wasn’t doing enough to protect those employees.

The group included several pension funds that own about 918,000 shares of Zions common stock - roughly 0.6 percent of its outstanding shares.

The banking company’s 10-member board initially decided unanimously to oppose the investors’ proposal, which was scheduled to be presented at Zions’ annual shareholders meeting May 28. They said the company’s current policies already "fully achieved" the goals of the proposal.

Greg Bell, a spokesman for the comptroller’s office in New York, said he wasn’t sure if the pension fund representatives had heard about Zions’ change of position.

Brough said the investment group had already been notified and that they agreed there was no longer any reason to bring up their proposal.

Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, said that while Zions has always had a nondiscrimination policy, she was happy to see the company be more explicit in what will be prohibited.

"It is a wonderful step forward for everyone, and I celebrate their decision," Balken said.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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