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In 2005 a record number of Fortune 500 companies are offering protections to gay and lesbian workers and their spouses. Here are 10 shining examples of the best employers

As state and local governments consider antigay ballot initiatives in 2005, companies are making their workplaces gay-friendlier.

The Advocate has put together its seventh annual list of 10 great places for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to work. We pored over information provided by the companies and their employees, and we were aided by the Human Rights Campaign's 2005 Corporate Equality Index, which was released in September. "The report balances the discussion the country is having about equality for GLBT people," says Daryl Herrschaft, director of HRC's Workplace Project and author of the index. "While we may be losing at the ballot box, the business community is more and more on the side of fairness and equality."

Herrschaft notes that the number of companies that scored a perfect 100 jumped from 56 last year to 101 this year, and more companies are contacting HRC wanting to score 100.

Adds HRC president Joe Solmonese: "While LGBT people struggle for equality under the law, corporations are filling the gaps where governments have left Americans vulnerable."

Keep in mind that the following list is not meant to signify the top 10 best places for gay employees but is a sampling of 10 workplaces that understand how pro-gay policies make for happier, more productive employees as well as a stronger bottom line.

Gap Inc. Revenue: $16.3 billion Number of employees: Over 150,000 Fortune 500 rank: 130 HRC score: 100

To be sure, Gap Inc. is a retail behemoth, owning the Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, but it has not forgotten its socially progressive San Francisco roots. The company's antidiscrimination policy includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. The policy applies to employees, applicants, customers, and business partners (including independent contractors, vendors, and suppliers). Gap has an explicit zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination.

Domestic partners of employees are eligible for the same benefits coverage as spouses of legally married employees, including medical, dental, and vision coverage.

Additionally, Gap has made donations through the Gap Foundation to many gay and lesbian organizations. It has also donated to HIV/AIDS organizations such as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Project Open Hand, and the Richmond Foundation. --F.K.

General Mills Revenue: $12.5 billion Number of employees: 27,500 Fortune 500 rank: 197 HRC score: 100

Betty Crocker might be a character associated with happy homemakers of the 1950s, but she's come a long way. And so has her company, General Mills, which this year added gender identity to its written antidiscrimination policy, earning it a perfect score in HRC's Corporate Equality Index.

Betty Crocker even lent her name to the company's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees' group, Betty's Family (a General Mills twist on the phrase "Friends of Dorothy").

"This is a great company," says gay employee Lee Anderson, manager of state and local government relations at the Minnesota-based corporation and a member of Betty's Family since he started working at General Mills four years ago. "I feel very lucky working for a company that values diversity the way General Mills does."

Betty's Family is one of seven diversity networks at the company; others include the Black Champions Network, the American Indian Council, and the Women's Forum. Also, a dedicated group of educators known as the Diversity Cadre conducts sensitivity training and sponsors events aimed at fostering awareness of cultural differences. Special councils are also active in championing the need for diversity throughout the company.

General Mills added sexual orientation to its antidiscrimination policy in the early 1990s. The company has offered domestic-partner benefits--including medical, dental, and life insurance--for same-sex couples since 1999.

General Mills also supports local and regional gay and lesbian groups and activities such as the Rainbow Families Conference, the Twin Cities Pride festival, and District 202, a gay youth center in Minneapolis. The company is a local sponsor of HRC. --F.K.

GlaxoSmithKline Revenue: $37.2 billion Total number of employees: 100,000 Fortune 500 rank: NA HRC score: 100

This pharmaceutical and health care company may be based in the United Kingdom, but its U.S. operations--in Philadelphia and North Carolina--are gay-friendly.

In 2000 the company began offering benefits to same-sex couples, and its North Carolina office has a popular support group for gay workers that holds social events and helps with relocation and other aspects of work and home life.

"They meet regularly and are a pretty active group," says Patricia Seif, a company spokeswoman.

GSK, which currently sells eight HIV/AIDS medications, controls an estimated 7% of the world's pharmaceutical market. And one of GSK's major community undertakings is its Positive Action program, a global partnership with HIV/AIDS communities that works to provide more effective HIV education and prevention as well as enhanced care, support, and treatment for those living with or affected by the virus. In April, GSK contributed $1 million for a project to help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS in Mexico. --Greg Hernandez

Kaiser Permanente Revenue: $28 billion Number of employees: 153,000, plus 12,000 physicians Fortune 500 rank: NA HRC score: 100

As the nation's largest nonprofit HMO, Kaiser Permanente has a diverse membership in nine states and the District of Columbia. That means the company hires its fair share of gay staff and doctors. "Members want to see people who look like them, talk like them, and understand their culture," says John Edmiston, a community relations manager for the Oakland, Calif.-based corporation.

Edmiston is a former president and current council member of KP Pride: Northern California LGBT Staff Association. Each of the organization's regions has its own KP Pride group. KP Pride was formed in 1993 as a vehicle for gay and lesbian staff to lobby for domestic-partner benefits.

Not much lobbying was needed. The national office quickly approved a policy allowing nonmarried partners access to health insurance. Kaiser Permanente added sexual orientation to its written nondiscrimination policy in 1994 and added gender identity in 2004. The company has a national diversity department, a national diversity council, and regional diversity councils.

Kaiser Permanente markets directly to gay health care consumers through magazine advertising as well as community outreach at venues such as local pride celebrations. The HMO also keeps lists of providers who are not only open to but interested in seeing LGBT clients. "So if you are looking for a physician you can feel comfortable with," says Edmiston, "you can call us." --F.K.

Olivia Cruises and Resorts Revenue: $14.4 million Total number of employees: 35 Fortune 500 rank: NA HRC score: 100

In 2002 Olivia Cruises sold just under $7 million in exclusively gay travel packages. Last year the company more than doubled that revenue, and 98% of Olivia's travelers report that they would use the service again. "Our groups are not mixed in with other groups. It's a 100% gay experience," says Amy Errett, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Olivia.

This type of travel is important because it allows many closeted gays and lesbians to truly be out during the trip, often for the first time. As a result of this dramatic experience, a special bond forms between Olivia travelers and the company.

Olivia also stands as a leader in terms of catering to the needs of its employees, offering a complete range of standard benefits for employees and partners as well as some interesting twists: Olivia matches up to $50 in monthly public transit costs, raffles off free parking, and takes the entire staff out to lunch on a regular basis.

From its humble beginnings as a record label during the 1970s, Olivia continues to look forward to the future, planning a retirement community, a broad-based rewards and discount network, and continued promotion of special events like its lesbian film festival and adventure vacation packages. --Mike Hudson

Raytheon Company Revenue: $20.2 billion Number of employees: 80,000 worldwide Fortune 500 rank: 103 HRC score: 100

A defense contractor as a great place for gays to work? Yep.

This year Raytheon--based in the Boston suburb of Waltham--became the first aerospace and defense giant to achieve a rating of 100 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index.

The kudos came after the company decided to add gender identity and expression to its antidiscrimination policy. "We have historically supported employees facing transitions, so this policy change makes our intention and beliefs regarding inclusion more explicit, and it ensures consistency across the company," says Hayward Bell, chief diversity officer.

The company has also provided information kits on gender identity and expression to its leaders and human resources professionals. "If employees feel included, they are more likely to reach their potential. It's a win for employees and a win for the company," says Bell.

Raytheon is also a sponsor of the Out and Equal Workplace Summit, an annual event focused on making workplaces safer and equitable for LGBT employees. Louise Young, a senior software engineer at Raytheon's Plano, Texas, campus and the founder of the company's LGBT employees network, was the recipient of the summit's Out and Equal Workplace Advocates Trailblazer Award.

"I've been a lesbian activist since 1971, and I became involved in workplace activism in 1993. To me Raytheon epitomizes what can be achieved," says Young, who has a combined 27 years of service at Raytheon and Texas Instruments, which Raytheon acquired in 1997. "Imagine a new LGBT employee coming into the company and finding this kind of visibility and support." --F.K.

Sprint Corp. Revenue: $27 billion Number of employees: 61,000 nationwide Fortune 500 rank: 67 HRC score: 100

Last year HRC publicly criticized Sprint for insuring employees' pets but not their same-sex partners. In January, however, the company rectified the situation and began offering such benefits. "We've been evaluating [offering domestic-partner benefits] for years, but this year we took a broader look at it," Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Bosshardt said at the time. "We have a larger diversity and inclusion strategy. We believe it attracts, retains, and motivates employees."

The telecommunications giant has also created the Sprint Managing to Win program, providing 7,000 executives and managers the tools and skills required to create inclusive work environments. It is the largest training initiative in the company's 105-year history.

Sprint established its Diversity Council in 2003--chaired by chairman and CEO Gary D. Forsee--to oversee its employee affinity groups, including LGBT workers. The company also has a supplier diversity program. Bosshardt believes the decision to offer domestic-partner benefits will aid the company in obtaining and keeping relationships with vendors as well as customers. --F.K.

Viacom Inc. Revenue: $22.5 billion Total number of employees: 31,653 Fortune 500 rank: 69 HRC score: 100

There's no shortage of gays on Viacom programming--MTV's The Real World and Showtime's The L Word and Queer as Folk are just a few of the programs that provide gay visibility. The New York City-based conglomerate recently even launched Logo, a 24-hour basic cable channel devoted to LGBT content.

More important, however, are its internal policies. In November 2004, Viacom granted gay and lesbian couples the same pension benefits as married couples. In addition, its affirmative action policy includes wording that addresses gender identity and expression. "We work with the Human Rights Campaign," says spokeswoman Julia Phelps. "All of our programs include programs for same-sex partners, such as planning weddings, filing tax returns, etcetera."

Viacom has had a "very close" relationship with Gay Men's Health Crisis, and the company's human resources representatives have spoken on a panel for transgender people, Phelps adds. "Overall, we consider the gay community another valuable source to recruit from," she says.

Viacom does not have a specific LGBT employee group but doesn't feel the need to start one. "Our employees are comfortable expressing themselves and influencing policies without a group structure," says Phelps. --G.H.

Washington Mutual Revenue: $11.7 billion Total number of employees: 52,579 Fortune 500 rank: 131 HRC score: 100

Three years ago Tom Morgan was being recruited by Seattle-based Washington Mutual, but he and his partner were reluctant to leave Boston. The gay-friendly attitude of the financial services company during the wooing process made all the difference.

"They arranged for a gay Realtor to take us around, and it was really a first-class experience," says Morgan, senior vice president of technology solutions. "The manager of human resources provided me with a great overview of domestic-partner benefits, and I met several other gay senior-level executives, and they provided a lot of help. I enjoy coming to work each day."

Washington Mutual began offering health insurance to same-sex domestic partners in 1999 and includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination policies.

In addition, the company regularly sponsors LGBT events, including pride festivals in New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Florida, and Palm Springs and Long Beach, Calif., as well as the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. --G.H.

Wyndham International Revenue: $943.8 million Total number of employees: 18,500 Fortune 500 ranking: NA HRC score: 100

Wyndham International is one of the largest brands in the lodging industry. In 2004 the company had close to $1 billion in sales, with millions of guests passing through its 150 properties in the United States and abroad.

The company actively courts gay and lesbian travelers--it was one of the first chains to have an advertising campaign targeted at gay consumers. The company also regularly donates to various national gay rights groups. "Outreach to the gay community is very important to us," says spokeswoman Amy Engler. "We've got lots of important programs we continue to support for that reason."

Wyndham's success with gays and lesbians is one of the few bright spots in its financial performance of late. The company lost close to $500 million last year and was recently acquired by the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm with broad real estate investments.

Still, thanks to the company's generous gay-friendly benefits, treatment of LGBT employees, and outreach to gays, the Orlando Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa in Florida was named the official hotel of Gay Day 2004 and 2005 at Walt Disney World. "Not only does Gay Day have a substantial impact on the region's tourism by bringing hundreds of thousands of guests, but it also focuses on an important and growing market for Wyndham," says Gregory J. Hauenstein, area director of operations and general manager at Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa. - M.H.

In good companies

In the past six years The Advocate has chosen 75 other firms as good companies for gay and lesbian employees. All remain on the list except for three. Fannie Mae was removed after its corporate foundation contributed to antigay organizations, including a $50,000 donation to the Traditional Values Coalition. Donna Karan International was removed when it fell to a 57 rating on HRC's Corporate Equality Index in 2004. Mobil fell off the list in 2002 after its domestic-partner policy was rescinded when the company merged with Exxon. Here are the remaining companies that are still good places to work:

Agilent Technologies Inc. AOL Time Warner AT&T Aetna American Airlines American Express Apple Avaya Bank One Bausch & Lomb Ben and Jerry's Best Buy Co. Inc. Borders Group Capital One Financial Charles Schwab Cingular Wireless ChoicePoint Inc. Chubb Corp. Cisco Systems Inc. Citigroup Inc. Deutsche Bank Eastman Kodak Co. Ford Motor Co. FleetBoston Financial General Motors Gillette Hewlett-Packard Hyatt Hotels IBM Intel J.P. Morgan Chase Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group Lehman Brothers Levi Strauss & Co. Lillian Vernon Limited Brands (The Limited) Lucent Technologies Metropolitan Life Insurance Miller Brewing Co. Mitchell Gold Merrill Lynch Morrison and Foerster Motorola NCR Nike Oracle Owens Corning Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. PepsiCo Inc. Pfizer Polaroid Prudential Quark Inc. Reebok Replacements Ltd. S.C. Johnson Sara Lee Scholastic Shell Oil Starbucks Subaru of America Sun Microsystems Texas Instruments United Airlines Verizon Wainwright Bank and Trust The Walt Disney Co. Wells Fargo Working Assets Worldspan Xerox

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