While Rejess Marshall was finishing her MBA at Robinson in spring 2019, the Supreme Court had not yet ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender employees. As part of her Legal and Ethical Environment of Human Resource Management course, Marshall wrote a paper on Supreme Court case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The plaintiff, Aimee Stephens, was fired shortly after notifying her employer of plans to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Though the Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Stephens’ favor, Marshall conducted her research before the verdict had been reached. As part of the project, she reviewed previous EEOC cases in order to predict the outcome.
“This was big talk a year ago, especially considering a right-leaning Supreme Court,” Marshall said. “At the time, the court acted based on precedent, but now we know for sure that LGBT+ people are included in Title VII law.”
Marshall currently works as a claims adjuster at Progressive, and serves as an ambassador for the company’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Plus Network Employee Resource Group. Last year, Marshall organized her office’s participation in the Atlanta Pride Parade. More than 50 employees drove and walked alongside Progressive-branded emergency response vehicles. Because of the solid turnout, the company offered Marshall an increased budget for this year’s event; she plans to purchase and decorate a float.
“A lot of cities’ Pride parades take place in the summer and have gone virtual [because of the coronavirus pandemic],” Marshall said. “Atlanta Pride occurs in October, and as of now, it has not been canceled.”
In addition to belonging to the LGBT+ community, Marshall is African American. Considering the current political and social landscape, these are doubly heavy times for her. Many companies have publicly supported the Black Lives Matter movement. Marshall finds Alexis Ohanian’s recent departure from Reddit’s board particularly impressive. (In early June, Ohanian stepped down from his position, requesting the spot be filled by a Black board member.)
“Ohanian’s resignation showed there has to be a fair distribution of wealth and power,” Marshall said. “His making space for a person of color is the most impactful move I have seen so far.”
Over the past few weeks, society has loudly decried systemic racism. A big piece of the conversation involves how companies and individuals can put their lip service into action. Marshall thinks listening is an important first step.
“I would ask my white allies to check their privilege and acknowledge how others’ lives were completely different because they didn’t have those same advantages,” Marshall said. “Be willing to listen and learn, champion legislation and policies, and vote for people who do the work to make sure everyone is equal.”