Employment Law Daily Dramatic uptick in major U.S. companies, law firms advancing LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dramatic uptick in major U.S. companies, law firms advancing LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

There is good news for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) workers in a survey released earlier this month. A record number of U.S. major companies and law firms are advancing vital policies and practices to protect these workers, according to the 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). This year, a record-breaking 609 businesses earned the CEI’s top score of 100, up from 517 last year, showing a single-year increase of 18 percent. This record sets a new high-water mark for corporate leadership over the 16-year history of the CEI.

The CEI underscores the historic support for LGBTQ equality among the nation’s top employers, even in the face of continuing “sustained attacks by the Trump-Pence Administration on LGBTQ people,” as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, put it.

This year’s findings. The key national findings of the 2018 CEI include the following:

  • 609 companies earned a perfect 100 points, up from 517 in the 2017 report;
  • Gender identity is now part of nondiscrimination policies at 83 percent of Fortune 500 companies, up from just 3 percent in 2002;
  • 459 major employers have adopted supportive inclusion guidelines for transgender workers who are transitioning;
  • 137 Fortune 500 companies were given unofficial scores based on publicly available information.

The CEI rates companies and top law firms on detailed criteria falling under five broad categories: nondiscrimination policies; employment benefits; demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBTQ diversity and inclusion; public commitment to LGBTQ equality; and responsible citizenship.

Stepping up in the absence of federal protections. As the survey’s sponsors pointed out, the LGBTQ community is not explicitly protected by federal nondiscrimination law. However, the survey found that companies are bridging that gap. The global number of employees with a corporate nondiscrimination policy protecting against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination has reached 14.5 million. Moreover, 106 top businesses are corporate supporters of the Equality Act, landmark federal legislation that would provide the same basic nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ people as other protected groups under federal law.

Through their actions, taken as LGBTQ workers and customers face a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures across the country as well as attacks from our nation’s highest offices, business leaders are building on their longstanding commitment to expanding workplace equality for LGBTQ people, according to survey sponsors. For example, in Texas, 70 businesses, along with several Texas Chambers of Commerce, signed a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Joe Straus, and other lawmakers, voicing their opposition to Texas’ SB 6, an anti-transgender bill similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 law. The bill did not pass.

Dramatic increase in support. Over the past several years, CEI-rated companies have dramatically expanded their support for transgender workers. When the CEI first launched in 2002, only 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies had nondiscrimination protections that included gender identity. Today, that number is 83 percent. And even as lawmakers have attacked the Affordable Care Act, trans-inclusive health care coverage has become a business norm. Seventy-nine percent of companies participating in this year’s CEI now offer transgender workers at least one health care plan that has transgender-inclusive coverage. HRC’s work through the CEI, often through one-on-one consultation with individual companies, has helped employers move toward full inclusion for their transgender employees.

“At a time when the rights of LGBTQ people are under attack by the Trump-Pence Administration and state legislatures across the country, hundreds of top American companies are driving progress toward equality in the workplace,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a release. “The top-scoring companies on this year’s CEI are not only establishing policies that affirm and include employees here in the United States, they are applying these policies to their operations around the globe and impacting millions of people beyond our shores. In addition, many of these companies have also become vocal advocates for equality in the public square, including the dozens that have signed on to amicus briefs in vital Supreme Court cases and the 106 corporate supporters of the Equality Act.”

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