Because of an
increasingly common policy at U.S. companies, Vivienne
Armstrong can choose from two different plans when she
considers her health insurance: the one offered by her
employer and one offered by her partner's.
registered nurse, gets her health coverage through the
defense firm Raytheon Co., which offers domestic-partner
benefits to her partner, Louise Young. Young, a senior
software engineer in the Plano, Texas, office, said
Armstrong chose Raytheon's plan simply because it has
Young, a lesbian
activist, said she is encouraged by signs of the growth
of gay-friendly corporate policies within her industry and
in corporate America. And the advocacy group Human
Rights Campaign reports that gay-friendly policies are
being added at an increasing number of companies,
where they are a draw to prospective employees gay and
straight. ''Some of our competitors are starting to emulate
our good workplace policies,'' Young said.
touted as the first in its industry to earn a perfect score
from the Human Rights Campaign in 2005. To earn a perfect
score, companies must offer domestic partners health
and other wellness benefits, enact nondiscrimination
policies for sexual orientation and gender identity,
and support LGBT resource groups and events.
The HRC recently
released its newest list tracking company policies on
rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender
employees, and this time it included three other
defense contractors: Boeing Co., Honeywell
International Inc., and Northrop Grumman Corp.
Companies in the
automotive, pharmaceutical, and consulting industries,
as well as law firms, followed a similar pattern with more
firms being added to the list.
HRC president Joe
Solmonese attributes that to the growing sentiment
among both gay and straight employees that companies should
not only tolerate but encourage diversity of all
kinds, including that of a sexual nature. ''The
phenomenon of competition is actually an interesting one,''
Solmonese said. ''What we're seeing when we're looking at
specific industries, we see an emerging sense that if
more than a few are at 100%, then we all need to be at
The HRC started
its annual review in 2002. Since then, it has grown in
visibility as an indicator of the type of culture a company
cultivates, which is increasing in importance for gay
and straight employees, Solmonese said. ''All of these
things are motivated by what is good for business,''
he said. ''I hear from corporate leaders every week that
they went after a very sought-after person, and they
hear the question of whether they have
domestic-partner benefits. For straight applicants,
it's a measure of the corporate culture.''
list--it grew to 138 from 101--expands in part
because more companies are becoming aware of its
existence and deciding it is important to apply. Among
the additions in 2006: Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc.,
Bank of America Corp., Clear Channel Communications Inc.,
General Motors Corp., Google Inc., Morgan Stanley,
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and Visa
Ernst & Young claims the distinction of being first
from its industry to make the list. Mike Syers, a partner at
the accounting firm, attributes that in part to the
early grassroots effort among employees. He was a
founding member of bEYond, the firm's GLBT employee
associate director for national tax at Ernst & Young,
and his partner, Nathan Monell, used the company's financial
assistance to help bring their adopted son and
daughter from Guatemala in late May of last year.
Faught received $5,000 per child in assistance, and company
policies, he said, gave him the flexibility to complete the
adoption process, including three trips to Guatemala.
Syers said that
gay-friendly policies, while good for employees, are also
good for business. ''We have companies realizing they really
can't afford to exclude anyone,'' he said. ''Younger
people are coming out of college and are out and open
in their public lives, they're not going to go back
into the closet to begin their professional careers.''
At Merrill Lynch
the sense that gay-friendliness is important has
actually translated into business opportunities. The firm's
Domestic Partner Financial Foundation helps couples
plan their financial lives, and Merrill Lynch manages
the endowments of a number of LGBT nonprofits. Todd
Sears, a senior financial adviser in Merrill Lynch's global
private client group, said corporate
America--more than the general
public--realizes the value of LGBT employees and
consumers. ''Companies like Merrill Lynch understand
that the LGBT community supports companies who support
us and will not do business with companies who do not,''
In many cases,
the changing policies ultimately affect the culture of the
office. Philip Adkins first worked at the law firm Arnold
& Porter, based in Washington, D.C., from 1989 to
1993. He left for another job but returned to the law
firm in 1997. He said the firm's policies have been a
big factor in his job satisfaction and desire to work there.
Now the director of benefits at Arnold & Porter,
Adkins said that when workers see support for the
sexual diversity policies among top managers, that
sends a message. ''It filters down,'' he said. (AP)
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