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Welcome to The Dose, which tackles the business and economics inside the turbulent world of health care and life sciences in Indiana. Your host is John Russell. To contact me call 317-472-5383.

Future of Indy's Dow Agro HQ now in hands of 2 companies known for gay rights

February 8, 2016

Gay rights and agricultural chemicals. What do the two have in common? Indianapolis might be about to find out.

Protections for LGBT workers could loom large as an issue when Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co., decide where to locate their combined agriculture headquarters, following their  planned $130 billion merger. 

Dow and DuPont pride themselves on equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. Both companies received a top rating of 100 percent on the 2016 Corporate Equality Index ,  published by the Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy group that promotes LGBT equality.

Now, the fate of Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences business is up in the air. About 1,500 people work at the ag headquarters on the northwest side. But some or all of those operations could move to another state as a result of the merger.

The deal calls for Dow Chemical and DuPont to combine operations. By 2018, the companies would split into three independent publicly traded companies, based on agriculture, chemicals and materials, and specialty products.

Neither Dow nor DuPont has spelled out where it might locate its combined agriculture operations. Last week, Dow AgroSciences said sales tumbled 16 percent in the fourth quarter, dragged down by high inventories and lower crop prices.

But the move by the Indiana state senate last week to shelve a bill that would have guaranteed gay rights protections for Hoosiers probably didn’t help Indiana’s case. The senate decided not to act on a bill that would have extended civil rights to gay and lesbian Hoosiers but not those who are transgender, effectively killing the legislation for the session.

And last year, Indiana was widely ridiculed by gay rights groups after Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics said would make it easier for businesses to discriminate against customers who are gay and transgender.

Dow and DuPont often point to their gay-friendly policies and benefits. Dow, the parent of Dow Agro, has long offered equal benefits to same-sex partners for health care, life insurance, bereavement leave, relocation and career assistance. It also pays for sex transformation surgeries for employees.

Each October, the company holds an “Ally Coming Out Day” at its worksites to raise awareness of LGBT workplace equality. In 2011, the International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce ranked Dow second among all companies for its gay-friendly workplace.

Dow was also recently ranked by Amsterdam-based Workplace Pride Foundation as one of the world’s Top-5 most LGBT-inclusive employers.

“An inclusive workplace, and for that matter a fully open and inclusive society, is one that enables its citizens and families to thrive, businesses to prosper and economies to grow,” Howard Ungerleider, Dow’s vice chairman and chief financial officer, said in November.

DuPont’s headquarters are in Wilmington, Delaware, and its agricultural unit, Pioneer, is located near Des Moines, Iowa. Both states guarantee gay rights.

Dow AgroSciences’ offices are in Indianapolis, which has an anti-discrimination ordinance. The measure, passed in 2005, provides protection for sexual orientation and gender identity. 
Will that be enough for Dow and DuPont as they decide where to locate the ag headquarters?

DuPont couldn’t be reached for comment. Dow Agro spokeswoman Kenda Resler-Friend in Indianapolis put out a query to Dow corporate in Midland, Mich., and returned with this:

“We don’t have a comment on this topic at this time–thanks for checking.”

And stay tuned.

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