San Francisco personnel firm links gay workers, accepting employers


Bach Personnel in San Francisco may be the only job placement agency in America that carries a pink triangle on its sign and a rainbow flag on its door.

The triangle and flag, symbols of gay pride, reflect the special niche of this Castro Street firm -- catering to gay and lesbian workers who are looking for employers who accept or embrace their sexual orientation.

In a fiercely competitive industry, every angle helps. "There are over 450 agencies that I'm competing with in the San Francisco area," said David Bach, who founded the firm in 1991. "It's brutal."

The gay community is a big niche to fill. The fall edition of the Lavender Pages, an alternative yellow pages of gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses in the Bay Area, will list over 900 firms, according to Steven Perlmuter, its advertising director.

A few other employment agencies advertise in the Lavender Pages, but none is as direct about their orientation as Bach's.

In addition, Mr. Bach points out, the gay community is a great source of high-quality workers. Close to two-thirds of gays in this region have a college education, he said, compared with about one-third of the general population.

The community's ethic of mutual support also gives Mr. Bach a leg up. Just as he advertises in the Lavender Pages for business, so the Lavender Pages has used his agency to recruit salespeople.

As word of mouth has spread, resumes have started streaming in from all over the country, mostly from gays and lesbians seeking to relocate to the Bay Area.

"We get calls every week," said Carole Morton, a job counselor and recruiter at the agency. "It's a relief for gay people to be able to come into a place like ours and feel comfortable and not need to hide."

Ms. Morton, who is also a minister, therapist, bakery owner and former model, understands their concerns. In the 1970s, she was fired from a New York City ad agency when her boss learned she was gay.

But Ms. Morton says she is happy to find good recruits of any orientation. "We are committed to nondiscrimination. We get resumes from people who have no idea who we are. They're just happy to find a job, and I'm just happy to find a qualified person so that I get my commission."

Mr. Bach estimates that about three-quarters of the workers he recruits are gay or lesbian. Fewer than half the businesses who use his services are gay owned, but more may be gay operated, he said.

Several Fortune 500 companies use its service.

Companies usually pay Bach Personnel a negotiated fee, commonly about 12 percent of the employee's first-year gross pay. Many other agencies in the industry charge 20 percent. Job seekers pay nothing.

To offer such low rates, Mr. Bach says he tries to keep costs low. His two recruiters are working only on commission until they learn the ropes. And he does little paid advertising, preferring word of mouth to find job candidates. He has started posting some jobs on the Internet.

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