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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 22, 2006

Out at work: Major companies are growing more LGBT-friendly, survey finds


Washington, D.C.--Major American corporations are becoming more and more supportive of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, says a new report.

A record 138 companies nationwide achieved 100% in the Human Rights Campaign�s 2006 Corporate Equality Index, compared to 101 last year and only 13 in the first report four years ago. Additionally, the number of areas the companies are scored in has increased each year.

The report, released September 19, rates major corporations on their LGBT-affirming policies in hiring, non-discrimination, equality in benefits, marketing policies and advertising.

This year�s survey shows the largest gains in employers� protection of transgender and transsexual employees, and steady increases in all categories measured.

Ohio companies also improved their scores over previous surveys.

HRC attributes the improvement to competition for highly qualified employees, especially within categories such as defense and aerospace suppliers, where a having an LGBT-affirming leader has brought on a �domino effect.�

�We are seeing a vigorous effort by companies to match or exceed others in their industry on fairness and inclusion for LGBT Americans,� said HRC president Joe Solmonese. �They know that a good score means a healthier work environment, greater productivity and the ability to recruit top talent. They also know that a bad score is bad for the bottom line.�

HRC sent surveys to 1,520 publicly and privately held companies with 500 or more employees on the Fortune 1,000 list, Standard and Poor�s 500, Forbes and the American Lawyer 100.

They got back 318 surveys. Adding their own research to this, they were able to rate a total of 446 corporations in 29 industry sectors.

Three Ohio firms are top-rated

Three companies headquartered in Ohio scored 100%: Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, NCR in Dayton, and Owens Corning in Toledo.

A dozen other Ohio firms were rated. Altogether, Ohio corporations scored 60.6%, under the national average of 70%.

The Ohio company with the lowest score, 5%, is Lauren Manufacturing of New Philadelphia.

Only three companies scored zero: Exxon Mobil, Perot Systems and Meijer, the Grand Rapids, Michigan grocery and discount store chain with a large Ohio presence.

New areas of scoring include supportive gender transition guidelines and wellness benefits that include mental health and hormone therapies associated with gender transitioning.

Also scored for the first time in 2006 was parity in partner benefits, such as bereavement leave, supplemental life insurance and adoption assistance.

Points were deducted for companies engaging in political or social activities that undermine LGBT equality.

The survey, however, does not measure this activity when it is done privately by top executives or board members.

Coors, the Colorado brewer, scored 100%. But this does not reflect its relationship with the Castle Rock Foundation, founded in 1993 by Coors family members to separate their political activity from their company.

In 2005, Castle Rock contributed $2.4 million to right wing think tanks and advocacy groups, including $50,000 to the Federalist Society, which promotes anti-LGBT, �strict constructionist� legal theories, and $60,000 to Landmark Legal, an anti-LGBT law firm.

HRC spokesperson Brad Luna said the mission of the survey is to develop a matrix that can be used across industries for rating how the actual corporations treat employees.

Acknowledging the contradictions between how Coors appears in that matrix and what their profits fund, Luna said HRC provides other materials �to give texture to that.�

�We have no control over how shareholders spend the money,� said Luna, adding that the process of ratings is �evolving.�

Some industries are friendlier

Luna said that the key factor in determining where the LGBT-affirming employers are appears to be industry-related, not based on geography.

�It has to do with companies in each industry leading the way.�

�There�s no correlation between the politics of a state and how its companies do,� said Luna. �States with high concentrations of industries that do well, average higher.�

Texas, for example, is a conservative state. But it ranks above the national average because of the number of airlines headquartered there, a high-scoring industry.

Luna said the industry factor even tops the presence of labor unions, which typically bargain for LGBT-affirming workplaces.

The tobacco industry leads the way with 90%, followed by consulting and business services and the hospitality and casino industry with 89% each. Law firms were next with 87%.

The lowest-scoring industry was engineering and construction with 54%.

Daryl Herrschaft, who directs HRC�s Workplace Project, said that the progress made by corporations does not remove the need for laws protecting LGBT people in the workplace.

�This opens up channels for internal policies,� said Herrschaft, �but there�s no substitute for civil rights protection. We want a level playing field.�





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