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Workplace Equality Takes Center Stage with Record Number of Companies Rated in HRC’s 2011 Corporate

A record 844 American companies and law firms have been rated as part of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2011 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a survey that assesses American workplaces on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. For the first time this year, all Fortune 500 companies, including those that did not voluntarily participate, are scored on their workplace practices. Now in its ninth year, the CEI has helped lead a sea-change in the workplaces practices of corporate America by assessing more than 30 specific policies and practices covering nearly every aspect of employment for LGBT workers from non-discrimination protections and the training surrounding those policies to domestic partnership and legal dependent benefits to gender transition guidelines and LGBT employee resource groups. Visit www.hrc.org/CEI2011 for a complete look at the survey. Corporate America continues to break new ground in their workplace protections and benefits for LGBT people. Whereas government is often a lagging indicator of societal acceptance, American companies have repeatedly been on the leading edge of positive change for LGBT workers. A few of the survey’s highlights:

  • Corporate America protects LGBT workers from discrimination and provides benefits in ways that our own government does not. While only 29% of the U.S. population lives in states with statewide non-discrimination statutes that specify sexual orientation and gender identity, 99% of CEI-rated companies include sexual orientation and 76% include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies. In 2002, only 5% of CEI-rated companies included gender identity among their non-discrimination policies.
  • In 2004, only 3% of CEI-rated companies addressed transgender health with limited benefit offerings. Today, 79% of CEI-rated companies provide this limited coverage and 85 companies specifically, including Google Inc., The Coca Cola Co. and AT&T Inc., offer at least one healthcare plan option to all employees that covers many medically necessary transition-related treatment including hormone therapies and sexual affirmation surgeries.
  • In 2002, 70% of CEI-rated companies provided domestic partnership healthcare benefits. Today, 95% of CEI-rated companies provide that coverage.

Next year a new set of survey standards promoting even further LGBT equality in the workplace will apply. These 18 additional standards will seek to end benefits discrimination for transgender employees and dependents, provide full equal benefits for same-sex partners and spouses and promote organizational competency on LGBT workplace issues that go beyond written policies. Visit our website to for a complete look at the new criteria. Several high-profile companies have not responded to HRC’s invitation to be rated. Notable non-responders include well known brands such as Pottery Barn and West Elm (both part of Williams-Sonoma Inc.), Bed Bath & Beyond, Dillard’s, PetSmart, Western Union, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Tyson Foods, AFLAC, Foot Locker, DirecTV and News Corp., owner of both Fox News and HarperCollins Publishers. The lack of transparency by these organizations makes the case for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The 2011 CEI does not include a company’s political contributions as part of the scoring criteria. The CEI is an effective tool designed for a specific purpose: to improve workplace conditions for LGBT people by encouraging corporations to adopt pro-LGBT policies for their workforces. The CEI provides employers with clear standards that they must meet, creates competition (that had previously not existed) to expand LGBT-inclusive policies and progressively raises the bar, pushing corporations to earn their ratings with an increased commitment to equality.

Ultimately, the strength of this model has made the trend toward equal workplaces snowball. Like most other social justice movements, HRC is endeavoring to understand the impact of the Citizens United decision on political races important to LGBT people.  Separate from the CEI, HRC has launched a project to assess the implications of corporate political contributions on the nation’s LGBT community with an action plan anticipated by spring 2011. A total of 844 companies have been rated in the 2011 CEI, including the entire Fortune 500. Two-hundred sixty three Fortune 500 companies voluntarily submitted surveys; the remaining 229 were rated based upon publicly-available data. In addition, 66 Fortune 1000 companies, 130 law firms and 156 other companies voluntarily participated in the 2011 CEI. Fifteen points were deducted from the otherwise perfect scores of Target, Best Buy and 3M for failing to respond to requests to take corrective actions following their sizable contributions to MN Forward, a political committee supporting the election of an anti-gay candidate for governor of Minnesota. The release comes on the eve of the Out and Equal Workplace Summit – an annual gathering of individuals, human resources professionals, diversity managers, employee resource group (ERG) leaders and allies who are committed to LGBT inclusion in the workplace.

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