NEW YORK - Ten years after it first proposed a shareholder resolution that Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. specifically include protections for gays in its employment policy, the $65.9 billion New York City Employees' Retirement System can finally say it won the war.
The company's board voted unanimously Nov. 26 to include "sexual orientation" in the company's anti-discrimination policy. The vote followed a shareholder meeting that day at which a NYCERS resolution to that effect received 57% approval, NYCERS spokesman Roberto Roman said.
But it's not as simple as it sounds. NYCERS' original shareholder resolution on sexual orientation in 1992 was blocked by Cracker Barrel, which argued that proposals dealing with rank-and-file employees fell under the heading of everyday business and could be excluded from proxy statements. In what became known as the "Cracker Barrel ruling," the Securities and Exchange Commission upheld Cracker Barrel's position. It was applied to other companies, too, until 1998, when pressure from institutional investors forced the SEC to amend its shareholder proposal rule and reverse the Cracker Barrel decision.