Corporate America more pro-gay than ever

BY admin

August 27 2003 12:00 AM ET

More large U.S. companies are providing better working conditions for their gay and lesbian employees, according to a report released Monday by the Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The report documents workplace improvements at about a third of the companies rated in the group's second annual survey of large corporations. Companies were scored on seven factors, including whether they offer health insurance coverage to employees' same-sex partners and whether they have nondiscrimination policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity.

Airlines, banking and financial services, high-tech and equipment manufacturers, and telecommunications businesses consistently scored above average, the group found.

The report looked at 250 companies from the Fortune 500 and Forbes 200 lists. It gave perfect scores to 21 companies, up from 11 last year. No company received a score of 0--last year three companies did.

The study found that 64% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation as a category covered in their nondiscrimination policies. Seventy-one percent of the companies surveyed advertise to the gay community, up from 61% in 2002.

"Corporate America has been leading the way around equal treatment for gay and lesbian people for some time, so it's not surprising that we would continue to see improvement," said Kim I. Mills, the group's education director. Mills said that while "successful businesses are increasingly recognizing that equality works," most companies can do more.

Businesses that appear to be lagging behind as far as providing fair treatment for all employees are hotels, resorts, and casinos; mail and freight delivery companies; and retail and consumer products firms. Aside from a few standout companies, firms in these industries generally rated below average, the report found.

Other factors that the HRC Foundation looked at include: whether companies include sexual orientation in diversity training, whether they support a gay employee resources group, whether their marketing is respectful and appropriate to sexual minorities, and whether they take corporate action that undermines the goal of equal rights for gay workers. Each factor was scored equally. Information was gathered from a voluntary questionnaire as well as additional research by the advocacy group.

A report released in May by HRC found that more companies of all sizes are providing health benefits to gay and lesbian domestic partners. That study also showed an increase in the number of local governments passing laws in 2002 that prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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