In an odd twist for a company that has been claiming loudly for several weeks that it’s more pro-gay than Harvey Milk, Stolichnaya vodka’s CEO, Val Mendeleev, just revealed that the company has no written policy protecting its gay and trans employees against discrimination.
Because up until now they haven’t needed one, say the CEO.
That’s what the CEO Mendeleev told Michelangelo Signorile this week on his SiriusXM radio show.
Stoli found itself at the center of a gay boycott this past week after worldwide ire erupted over Russia’s draconian clampdown on gay and trans people in that country, and reports of increased violence against gays.
It’s a long interview, but the pertinent part comes up at 8:19 into the audio. Signorile asks Mendeleev whether Stoli has a non-discrimination policy covering gay and trans people:
STOLI’S MENDELEEV: In the US, we have a company that’s just been started a few weeks ago, a few months ago. And they’re putting together all the policies. In Luxembourg we do not have this written policy, but everyone knows the rule.
SIGNORILE: But why not have a written policy?
STOLI’S MENDELEEV: Because so far we didn’t need that. We just didn’t have this issue so far in Luxembourg or anywhere else.
You need that now.
When Signorile asked about whether the company offers same-sex partner benefits to its gay employees, Mendeleev said “sure!” – but it sounded more like he meant “sure, we’d be happy to” rather than “sure, we already do.” They apparently have domestic partner benefits in the US, they say. But what about worldwide? Stoli didn’t answer that one. Sounds like they don’t.
I also got a kick out of this line:
SIGNORILE: Are you saying now that it’s not Russian vodka?
Mendeleev then gave a long and somewhat rambling answer, that makes pretty clear that Stoli is walking a very fine line between whether they are or are not a Russian vodka. (For anyone who wants to keep litigating this issue, Dan Savage has a new post up showing just how Russian Stoli really is.)
Here’s Dan’s interview. I honestly just assumed that since Stoli had spent the week bragging about how pr0-gay it was, that it and its parent company, SPI Group, just naturally included sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policy, and at the same-time offered same-sex partner benefits in all of its businesses. It does not.