America’s top companies and law firms have stepped up in record numbers to provide their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers around the world the vital non-discrimination protections they deserve, according to the 2016 Corporate Equality Index, released today by HRC Foundation.

Launched in 2002, HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is America’s premiere benchmarking tool for LGBT workplace equality. The 2016 CEI, for the first time in its 14-year history, required that top-scoring companies have a global non-discrimination policy or code of conduct that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  HRC raised the bar for a perfect score in the 2016 report to acknowledge the global scope of CEI-rated companies, and the imperative for fully-inclusive employee policies across operations worldwide.

The results of this year’s CEI showcases how hundreds of U.S.-based multinational companies are not only promoting LGBT-friendly workplace policies in the United States, but are helping to advance the cause of LGBT equality around the globe. Even with the demanding new global criteria, the response from Fortune 500 companies and the nation’s top law firms was nothing short of remarkable: a record-breaking 407 businesses were awarded the CEI’s top score of 100 this year--the most in the history of HRC’s CEI program.

Today, HRC President Chad Griffin joined leading, global American companies in Atlanta -- including Delta Airlines, Lockheed Martin, and Newell Rubbermaid -- to release the results of the 2016 CEI. Tomorrow, Griffin will travel to Mexico City to join with leading U.S. companies with major employee bases in Mexico -- including Dow, IBM and American Express -- for an international event held in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy and Pride Connection, a consortium of Mexican LGBT workplace advocates.  HRC has been working with these companies and other partners in Mexico City, including the American Chamber of Commerce, on how the U.S. business community can help drive positive progress toward LGBT equality in the workplace globally.

Like the U.S., Mexico has made great strides on LGBT equality in recent years, but the community still faces political, societal and legal challenges. Notably, in 2009 Mexico City became the first jurisdiction or state in any Latin American country to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, and Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled this June that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.  While this was an important decision, local city clerks may still deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 27 of Mexico’s states, forcing same-sex couples to take additional legal action to obtain them.  Although the country does have a non-discrimination law that includes protections based on sexual orientation, it lacks protections based on gender identity or expression.  Also, while public opinion is rapidly shifting in support of LGBT rights, the situation for LGBT Mexicans varies greatly from state to state, and violence against the community remains a very serious issue.

“This year represents a milestone in the history of the CEI, and corporate America continues to break new ground in the fight for LGBT equality,” Griffin said. “Our nation’s top companies this year have risen in record-breaking numbers to the challenge of extending non-discrimination protections to their LGBT employees around the globe. These companies and law firms have consistently shown leadership in building support for greater equality for LGBT employees, and not just within the walls of their own workplace. This year’s CEI demonstrates that business understands what many have long known: The fight for LGBT equality does not end at our borders, but is a global endeavor that must be pursued with greater urgency than ever before.”

Those earning a perfect score this year include CEI newcomers Twitter, Uber and Airbnb, as well as stalwarts such as Apple, Xerox and others that have been leaders in advancing LGBT equality in the workplace since the survey began in 2002.

HRC has moved the goalposts for achieving a perfect score several times to reward and incentivize companies in pressing forward with new policies that improve LGBT workplace equality. Such changes make this year’s number of perfect-scoring companies all the more remarkable. For example, in 2012, when the CEI criteria first required  that companies offer transgender-inclusive benefits to achieve a perfect score, the number of top scorers dropped from 337 to 189. The decline was erased by last year when 366 businesses earned 100 points, and more than a third of Fortune 500 companies were offering trans-inclusive health care -- up from zero in 2002 when the CEI was first published.

Through the CEI, HRC has successfully propelled important progress by implementing increasingly stringent criteria for companies to follow. This year’s new criteria also requires that contractors used by companies abide by fully-inclusive non-discrimination policies, and that companies refrain from making charitable gifts to organizations that have written policies or missions that incorporate LGBT discrimination.

This year’s survey illuminates yet again the commitment of America’s top companies and law firms to provide an equal and inclusive workplace for all of their employees:

  • 511 companies participating in this year’s CEI now offer transgender workers at least one health care plan that has transgender-inclusive coverage. That’s a 150 percent increase since 2012, when the CEI first included trans-inclusive health care as a requisite for companies to receive a perfect score;
  • Gender identity is now part of non-discrimination policies at 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies, up from just 3 percent in 2002;
  • And more than 330 major employers have adopted supportive inclusion guidelines for transgender workers who are transitioning.

“The results from this year’s Corporate Equality Index demonstrate the great lengths major businesses go to in order to ensure equality across their operations,” said Deena Fidas, director of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program and co-author of the CEI. “As we celebrate these successes, we also know that we have much work ahead to create true equality -- in opportunity and engagement for all LGBT people. We know we can count on these business leaders as partners in taking on the challenges ahead in public policy and workforce inclusion.”

Progress is being felt far beyond the ranks of the Fortune 500. The purpose of the CEI, which this year had 851 companies actively participating, is also to encourage small- and medium-sized companies, as well as state and municipal governments, to increase workplace acceptance by extending similar inclusive benefits and protections to LGBT employees.

The CEI rates companies and top law firms on detailed criteria falling under five broad categories:

  • Non-discrimination policies
  • Employment benefits
  • Demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion
  • Public commitment to LGBT equality
  • Responsible citizenship

The full report is available online at www.hrc.org/cei.


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