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Darden Earns Perfect Score on Corporate Equality Index

December 09, 2013

By: Joannah Cassell, Learning Facilitator, Darden Restaurants

Darden Earns Perfect Score on Corporate Equality Index

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I am lucky that throughout my whole life, I've always felt supported by my family. In addition to my family's unconditional love, I've found that same welcoming environment through other family-like bonds I've formed at work and in the community.

Darden has always provided a supportive environment for me to pursue my passions. I felt supported professionally as I transitioned from the restaurants to the Restaurant Support Center and as I started my Master's program while still working. I first joined the Darden family in 2004 as a Manager at Olive Garden. I knew I wanted to work for our company after hearing past President Joe R. Lee talk about the culture and career opportunities at a job fair. My service at Olive Garden (and later as a Longhorn manager) gave me training and hiring experience, which prepared me for subsequent roles in Darden's Restaurant Support Center. I was able to transition into Human Resources, and eventually advance to my current role as a Learning Facilitator. I've always had a passion for teaching and now I get to use my operational knowledge to impact our future leaders.

Darden also supported me personally when I joined the Darden Pride Alliance Employee Resource Group this year. Just one of many Employee Resource Groups at Darden, Pride Alliance provides a welcoming and inclusive environment that celebrates the LGBT community and is open to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Thanks to Darden’s celebration of diversity in its employees, I truly feel that who I am matters.

Pride Alliance consists of a great group of people who live Darden’s core value of "Being of Service" by supporting the LGBT community. I am part of many community groups, including the Central Florida Sounds of Freedom, a musical organization that promotes LGBT awareness, acceptance and equality. In January, other representatives of the Central Florida Sounds of Freedom and I had the honor of marching in the Presidential Inaugural parade as part of the national Lesbian and Gay Band Association.  Once word got out at Darden about our involvement in the Presidential Inaugural parade, my colleagues were eager to learn more about our organization, and I was excited for their enthusiasm and to spread the word about Central Florida Sounds of Freedom. I am so lucky that my Darden family not only supports who I am at work, but also my involvement and pursuits outside of work.

Many companies talk about diversity, but I truly feel that Darden lives and breathes it. I am proud that we earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign 2014 Corporate Equality Index, although I am not surprised. I have benefitted first-hand from Darden's culture of acceptance and inclusion. To learn more about Darden's ranking in the Corporate Equality Index, visit our full announcement.

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