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10 best companies
to work for

10 best companies
to work for


As more and more firms opt to protect and nurture their GLBT employees, The Advocate adds to it's annual list

A lot of U.S. companies talk about diversity but fall far short of treating their gay and lesbian employees with fairness and respect, especially in tough economic times when management is focused on bolstering the bottom line. But as we prepared our sixth annual list of 10 good places for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people to work, we found that during the past year gays continued to make significant progress in the workplace. Several of the companies on our list expanded their nondiscrimination policies and began to provide the same benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees that they do to straight spouses.

Our list is derived from information provided by the companies, insight from employees, and research published in the Human Rights Campaign's 2004 Corporate Equality Index, which ranks 379 companies on a scale of 0-100. To calculate its scores, HRC looked at seven criteria, including whether the company offers health insurance to domestic partners, provides gay-inclusive diversity training, and avoids support for antigay groups. Each category is given the same weight, and the values are added to reach the final rating. "Corporate America has realized that these policies ultimately are good for their business," says Kim Mills, HRC's education director. "And in many quarters, there is a sincere commitment to really walking the walk."

One of this year's noteworthy developments is the number of companies that received perfect scores from HRC, which awarded 54 scores of 100, a 157% increase over 2003 and a nearly 400% increase over its inaugural index in 2002. Many of those that received perfect scores for the first time did so by adding the single protection to their written nondiscrimination policies that caused them to fall short in previous years: gender identity and expression. "As big and as important as that [protection] is for os," Mills says, "I think corporate America doesn't see that as a costly move, so they were willing to do it."

The following is not meant to be a list of the 10 best places to work in the United States, but rather 10 places that have enlightened workplace practices and protections.

Agilent Technologies Inc. Palo Alto, Calif. Revenue: $6.1 billion Employees: 28,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 305 HRC Score: 100

A leader in the test- and measurement-equipment industry, Agilent was the original business started by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. Spun off from Hewlett-Packard Co. in 1999, Agilent has earned a reputation for its equal treatment of gay employees. The company offers the same benefits to same-sex domestic partners as it does to married couples, including medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, coverage of a partner's dependents, relocation assistance, adoption assistance, and survivor benefits, among others. "Yes, it's true that some of these things cost us money," says Greg Morris, an openly gay diversity consultant at Agilent. "At the same time, you wouldn't have that same conversation about providing medical insurance to a married spouse. There is a certain sense [within Agilent] that it would be a very genuine inequity if someone in a domestic-partner situation did not get these benefits." Agilent's diversity training covers sexual orientation, and each of its facilities has one of two company-sanctioned gay groups: the Gay and Lesbian Employee Network and Safe Space. Agilent also has sponsored pride celebrations and actively recruits openly gay and lesbian job applicants.

Best Buy Co. Inc. Richfield, Minn. Revenue: $22.6 billion Employees: 90,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 78 HRC score: 100

The nation's leading consumer-electronics retailer has made remarkable strides not only in the marketplace but also in its treatment of GLBT employees. Best Buy has opened 80 stores during the past 18 months, bringing its total number of retail locations in North America to more than 780. During that same period the company introduced medical, dental, and vision benefits for domestic partners, added sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to its written nondiscrimination policy, and sponsored the 2003 Out and Equal Workplace Summit. The changes are part of Best Buy growing up as a company, says James Damian, a senior vice president and executive sponsor of the company's two-year-old gay employee group, People Respecting Individual Differences Equally. "When these [pro-gay policies] were broached to the company, there wasn't any kind of phobia about it," he says. PRIDE, located at the company's Minnesota headquarters, has been mentoring newer employee groups. The next goal, says openly lesbian senior manager for diversity and multicultural relations Cindy Laughlin, is extending the group to Best Buy's regional locations.

ChoicePoint Inc. Alpharetta, Ga. Revenue: $795 million Employees: 4,200 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A HRC score: 100

You might not know about ChoicePoint, but it might know about you. It's the leading provider of identification- and credential-verification services, performing more than 6 million background checks annually. ChoicePoint also owns and operates the Bode Technology Group, the private forensic lab that helped identify victims of the September 11 attacks. The company forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, has offered domestic-partner medical and dental benefits since 2002, and added vision coverage this year. ChoicePoint also includes sexual orientation in its diversity training and provides corporate funding to its gay employee group, ChoicePoint Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Through its corporate giving program, the company supports three AIDS-related organizations: Project Open Hand, Jerusalem House, and the Atlanta AIDS Walk.

Cisco Systems Inc. San Jose, Calif. Revenue: $19 billion Employees: 34,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 100 HRC score: 100

The computer-network equipment giant also is a leader in its fair treatment of gay and lesbian employees and its charitable support for gay groups. Cisco provides comprehensive benefits to gay employees and their partners, including medical, dental, vision, and life insurance; bereavement leave; relocation assistance; adoption assistance; and baby gifts to domestic partners who become parents. In addition, partners of gay employees may be designated as beneficiaries of 401(k) life insurance benefits in the event of the employee's death. The company's gay employee group, GLBT and Advocates, has been meeting for more than seven years and became a company-sanctioned group in 2003. A gay-supportive "diversity council" exists at every major company site worldwide. Cisco also has donated to numerous AIDS organizations; has been a sponsor of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network's annual awards gala; supports the pro-diversity Web site; and partners with San Jose's DeFrank Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center.

Citigroup Inc. New York Revenue: $94.7 billion Employees: 275,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 8 HRC score: 100

As the world's largest financial services firm, it's notable that the company has workplace protections that include a written nondiscrimination policy encompassing sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Sexual orientation also is part of Citigroup's employee-training programs: Managing Inclusion and Respect at Work. Since 2000 the firm has provided extensive benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees, including medical, dental, and vision insurance. Citigroup has participated in Reaching Out, the annual conference for gay and lesbian MBA students, and sponsored receptions for gay students at leading business schools. Citigroup Pride serves as an internal network for GLBT employees, and the company supports numerous gay rights groups and advocacy organizations through its foundation.

Dell Inc. Round Rock, Texas Revenue: $41.4 billion Employees: 50,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 31 HRC score: 100

Personal computer maker Dell Inc. recently announced record-breaking, second-quarter revenue of $11.7 billion. That's not surprising for a company that revolutionized the retail-computer industry by having customers place factory-direct orders rather than buying from retail stores. Dell holds its own in its treatment of gay employees too. The company has a written nondiscrimination policy covering sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The same benefits that are offered to the straight spouses of employees are extended to the partners of gay employees, such as medical, dental, vision, and life insurance. Dell also includes sexual orientation in its diversity training and is a sponsor of the annual Out and Equal Workplace Summit.

Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group San Francisco Revenue: N/A; privately held Employees: 5,000 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A HRC score: 100

This San Francisco-based hotelier transformed its industry by pioneering the boutique hotel concept. Instead of square buildings filled with cookie-cutter rooms, Kimpton offers hip hotels, each with its own theme. Its Hotel Triton, for example, has rooms designed by music icons Carlos Santana, Graham Nash, and Jerry Garcia. Kimpton also is the only company in the hotel industry to receive a perfect score in the 2004 Corporate Equality Index. The company has offered medical benefits to domestic partners since 1997. The partners of gay employees get the same reduced room rate--$50 a night--as straight spouses do, and the company has a Web site dedicated to marketing to gay consumers. Kimpton also plans to expand its "Red Ribbon Reservation" program, in which guests can ask for $10 from their bill to be donated to the National AIDS Fund. "Being based in San Francisco, there's a natural tendency to make sure you're very inclusive of all the different groups that live here," says Andrew Freeman, the company's openly gay vice president of public relations.

Miller Brewing Co. Milwaukee Revenue: $4.8 billion Employees: 6,500 Fortune 500 ranking: N/A HRC score: 100

Visit a Miller facility and you likely will see a posted nondiscrimination policy signed by the CEO that includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The company has provided medical insurance to gay domestic partners since 2000 and has since added dental and vision insurance, bereavement leave, relocation assistance, and pension survivorship benefits. Miller regularly advertises in gay publications. And don't forget the Miller Lite prime-time television ad titled "Switcheroo," in which two women in a bar send a beer to the table of a handsome man, only to see him take the hand of his boyfriend. Miller also has sponsored events for the Wisconsin AIDS Fund, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, and the International Gay Bowling Organization. And it has contributed to Camp Heartland, a retreat for children and teenagers living with HIV/AIDS.

Owens Corning Toledo, Ohio Revenue: $5 billion Employees: 17,500 Fortune 500 ranking: 350 HRC score: 100

As the company trademarked the color pink for its home insulation products, it seems fitting that it treats its gay employees fairly. Owens Corning's nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation and gender identity. It introduced domestic-partner health benefits this year--even as the company was restructuring during a bankruptcy. And Owens Corning includes sexual orientation in its diversity training. The company also has contributed to the Woodlands, which provides AIDS education, and David's House, which helps people in Ohio living with HIV/AIDS.

PepsiCo Inc. Purchase, N.Y. Revenue: $27 billion Employees: 143,000 Fortune 500 ranking: 62 HRC score: 100

The company whose brands include Pepsi One, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade easily passed our own "Pepsi challenge." The world's number 2 carbonated soft-drink maker includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in its nondiscrimination policy. Not only that, the company has a nondiscrimination "code of conduct" translated into every language spoken by its employees worldwide. Domestic partners of PepsiCo employees can receive medical, dental, vision, and life insurance; accidental death and dismemberment insurance; pension beneficiary rights; adoption assistance; bereavement leave; and access to mental health counseling. The company also includes sexual orientation in its diversity training and has a gay employee group. In June its Quaker Oats division participated in Chicago's Citywide Pride, a series of panel discussions on gay-related topics for employees. And through its dozens of other brands, PepsiCo has supported gay pride parades and other gay events nationwide.

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