Friday, July 14, 2006

Fight all forms of discrimination

Last year, I explored a job opportunity in a call center as HR Director. It was a very tempting offer and I almost joined them, until I sat down with the CEO to discuss mutual expectations. This was when the excrement hit the fan, metaphorically speaking. I was told that one of my would-be first challenge was to craft and enforce a policy that would require certain call agents to follow a strict dress code. This struck me as somehow odd, and upon further discussion, I was informed that a number of the call center agents were gay men who cross-dressed and wore make up to work. I asked the CEO if these agents misrepresented themselves in the selection process (in other words, if they came to the selection interviews dressed as men and once hired started cross-dressing). I was told that as far as he knew, this was not the case. I asked him if the cross-dressing affected the performance of the particular agents or of the other agents. I was told that there was no perceptible effect on productivity.

So I asked why they were making a big fuss about the issue. Thereupon, the CEO gave me this long homily about morals, the need to uphold ethics, professionalism, and yada yada yada. His reasoning struck me as odd because if there was any unethical practice happening, it seemed to be coming from the company. There is something wrong in a set up where you hire people for their brains and their skills and then once hired, impose a different set of qualifications, ones that had nothing to do with the job they were hired to do in the first place.

I told the CEO he might have difficulty hiring a Human Resource Director worth his name who would be able to implement the directive because it was blatantly discriminatory. I did not pursue the job offer.

My friends in the call center industry tell me that yes, indeed, there is a sizable number of call center agents who are cross-dressers. Because the job mainly requires transacting business on the phone, communication skills is the main consideration. And they tell me that these cross-dressers are among the most effective and productive.

But I know that discrimination against gay men, particularly those who cross-dress, exist in many call centers and in other work places. And now comes this email in my inbox from LAGABLAB, the group of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders about a case involving Inday Garutay, the impersonator who gained media attention by impersonating Inday Badiday.

Based on the facts presented in the email, Inday Garutay was asked to leave Aruba, a bar at the Metrowalk Commercial Center in Pasig City because of a standing dress code which prohibits cross-dressers from being allowed into the premises.

This kind of discriminatory practice is a throwback to a period when left-handed people were burned at the stakes simply for being different. Why the bar in question, Aruba, actually has such a barbaric dress code is ridiculous. Forget about being politically correct. Forget about respecting diversity and individuality. Let's just focus on one issue: it is bad, very bad business.

I have never been to Aruba, and I guess now I never will. But I have been in the area once and I know that places like this one thrive on serving alcoholic beverages to kids. I also know for a fact that bars like these are frequented because of the permissive environment inside. And they have the gall to talk about morals?

I am joining the call to boycott this establishment. And I am urging you to do the same.

Here's the email:

Ms. Inday Garutay, a gay impersonator in two popular comedy bars in Metro Manila and a TV talent, was told to leave a restaurant because of the establishment's dress code. LAGABLAB wishes to call the attention of the public and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community against discriminatory practices committed by bars, restaurants and similar establishments against cross-dressing gay men and transsexuals. LAGABLAB strongly urges the public and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to protest this case of discrimination and homophobia. Please boycott bars, restaurants, clubs, and other establishments that have similar anti-LGBT practices and policies.

Inday Garutay (real name: Christopher Garcia Borja), was in Aruba restaurant in Metrowalk Commercial Center, Pasig City, last Tuesday, July 4, 2006, at around 6.30 PM, with her boyfriend. She was to meet her Manager and another friend before her show in Zirkoh. She was already inside the establishment when the incident took place. After coming back from the ladies toilet, she was reportedly told by the manager of the restaurant that she has to leave because of the establishment's dress code.

The supervisor for Aruba Metrowalk, Ms. Tin-Tin Aguilar, allegedly said that the dress code bars cross-dressing clients from entering the establishment. Despite being told that Inday was in fact already inside the establishment and that the dress code is discriminatory, Ms. Aguilar reportedly insisted that Inday should leave. Since it was futile to reason out to Ms. Aguilar that the policy is objectionable and biased, Inday decided to leave the establishment.

It has been verified by LAGABLAB from Ms. Tin-Tin Aguilar herself that Aruba Restaurant, despite being a non-membership restaurant/club, has a long-standing dress code that prohibits the entry of cross-dressing gay men and transsexuals. LAGABLAB believes that such a dress code is blatantly discriminatory and violates basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also does not conform to the human relations articles of the Civil Code.

Accordingly, the dress code as implemented violates international human rights standards, such as the right to freedom from discrimination and right to freedom of expression, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (www.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm) and the Universal Declaration of Human Right(www.un.org/Overview/rights.html).

LAGABLAB recommends the following actions:

  • Boycott Aruba restaurant and other establishments with similar policies.
  • Inform Aruba of your decision to boycott the establishment and send protest letters to the management of the Aruba Restaurant to stress and demand that they publicly apologize to Ms. Inday Garutay and the lesbian and gay community and that the dress code be lifted.
Address your letters to Mr. Jasper Chua, General Manager of Aruba restaurant (telefax: 6364702 or email aruba_bar@yahoo.com) A sample letter to the management of Aruba follows.

10 comments:

cvj said...

Kudos on your principled stand against that CEO.

Anonymous said...

Bong, what can you say about the discrmination being perpetrated by human resources personnel? Many jobseekers experience this everyday and one is age discrimination to think that they put an age limit even for a clerical job. Some even go up to the extent of specifying that they should be single which has no bearing whatsoever to the skills required. I think this is one of the problems that people in your field should address.

benign0 said...

Richard Florida in his book Flight of the Creative Class (I may have gotten both the author's name and the book title wrong) wrote that communities that attract the most creative people (like California, for example) have one thing in common: they are tolerant of diversity and deviant behaviour.

It is no wonder that a "moralistic" and judgmental society like the Philippines is either (1) hemorrhaging talent, (2) has a stunted creative arts industry, or (3) has a dismal track record of innovation.

Ambeth Ocampo described how a lack of an ability to imagine and dream is readily evident in Philippine industry in an Inquirer article she wrote in September 2005 after a visit to the marble-producing Philippine island of Romblon.

Of this island’s craftsmen, she wrote:

============
What did the people in this sleepy town do with their marble? They made them into tombstones, mortar and pestle. As a tourist, I asked myself: How many "lapida" [tomb markers] and "dikdikan" [pestle] do I want? How many
lapida and dikdikan do I need? Come to think of it, how many lapida and dikdikan do they sell in a year? Here is a region that has skilled manpower and an almost inexhaustible natural resource, but their products are unimaginative. If culture comes in to introduce new designs and new uses of Romblon marble, that would go a long way in developing the industry and the province.

============

Romblon is a microcosm of Pinoy society. Completely lacking in imagination, and therefore forever trapped in a habit of flooding our market with unimaginative and mediocre products at price-crushing volume.

BongA said...

thanks, cvj

BongA said...

anonymous,

i am embarrassed to admit that yes, such forms of discrimination are still prevalent today. and yes, many HR professionals are guilty. in fact, we still see many want ads today that specify certain "discriminatory" specification such as age, gender, personality (e.g., "pleasant personality"), even preference for graduates of certain schools. the issue about age is mainly borne out of this perception (which is not based on empirical data) that says older people are less productive are more prone avail of sick leaves, etc. to be fair, it is true that older people cost more because insurance and medical premiums are higher. there is a lot of static on these issue. legislation certainly will help as many people in this country are beyond hope in terms of enlightenment - but if there are laws, they do not have a choice. too bad our legislators do not see this as a priority measure.

BongA said...

benigno, as much as i personally dislike pinoy bashing, i grant that some "soul searching" and "paradigm shifts" are indeed required. you are right. i am reminded of the fact that most of the wooden sculptures from the mountain province are still of the same things - man in a barrel with the you-know-what, ash trays in the shape of the male genitalia, eagles, etc. how many of these things do we need? btw, it may be a simple oversight, but ambeth ocampo is a man.

bong a

Anonymous said...

BongA,

Job ads should NOT put age, sex, educational attainment , schools graduated from (Ateneo, La Salle, UP...) ID pictures etc. on their list, it is discriminatory BUT rather the job requirements like, able to speak English fluently, can work on shifts, willing to be assigned in the province, hardworker and can work with minimum supervision etc. etc.

Companies most esp. Call Centers should be Equal Opportunity employers...unfortunately what is happening here is they tend to screen out the applicants resumes on ads, just to save on time of going to tons and tons of applications by discriminating esp poor students of government schools...hopefully this practice could be corrected in time...

Ymir said...

i think all company is guilty of discrimination.

i would rather have a call center which imposes a strict dress code for gay men rather than companies imposing age limits to applicants. there is nothing you could do to adapt to the latter.

Anonymous said...

Well how can you fight discrimination in the hiring process, when people who are in-charge in this field continues to abuse this just because there's a loophole in our legal system. I guess the HR field is made up of apathetic people.

Anonymous said...

in terms of legislation, i believe there is already a bill to penalize discrimination against lesbians and gays. i read in www.lagablab.wordpress.com that there is an anti-discrimination bill pending in Congress.