Bil Browning

94% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation protections

Filed By Bil Browning | September 04, 2007 12:12 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Fortune 500, workplace protections

The Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization, recently announced that 470 (94%) of the 2007 Fortune 500 companies voluntarily include sexual orientation in their employment nondiscrimination policies. Equality Forum collaborates in this project with Professor Louis Thomas, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor, Yale Law School.

According to Gallup's May 10-13, 2007, Values and Beliefs Poll, 89% of U.S. citizens believe that gays and lesbians should have workplace discrimination protection. There is no federal workplace protection based on sexual orientation and only 20 states include sexual orientation nondiscrimination in their workplace statutes.

"When 94% of the Fortune 500 companies and 89% of the public support workplace equality, Congress is derelict by its failure to include GLBT citizens in federal workplace discrimination protection," stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of the Equality Forum. "There is no cost to provide sexual orientation protection. Corporations and shareholders benefit from a workplace where merit, not intolerance, prevails."

Of the 30 Fortune 500 companies that are noncompliant, 13 (43.3%) are headquartered in Texas. "When it comes to equality, Texas is a lone and tarnished star," Lazin stated.

In fall 2003, when Equality Forum began contacting Fortune 500 companies, 323 (64.6%) companies provided sexual orientation protection. Equality Forum communicated with the 177 (35.4%) CEOs and HR Directors of companies not offering that protection. By fall 2004, 405 (81%) Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in workplace nondiscrimination.

In summer 2005, Equality Forum and Professors Thomas and Ayres communicated with the 25 largest mutual funds, investment managers, university endowments, philanthropic foundations and labor, state and municipal pension funds to ask for their support on proxy statements requesting sexual orientation protection.

In response, Vanguard was among the large institutional shareholders that reviewed this issue and determined that it was in the best shareholder interest to support sexual orientation workplace protection. Exxon Mobil is one of only two companies in the Fortune 100 that does not provide sexual orientation protection. At the 2006 and 2007 annual Exxon Mobil shareholders meetings, Vanguard supported sexual orientation workplace equality by voting its 194 million shares against Exxon Mobil management.

"Wharton has studies that demonstrate that workplace diversity including sexual orientation is in the best corporate and shareholder interest," stated Professor Louis Thomas. "This workplace protection likewise sends an affirming message to the estimated $660 billion annual domestic GLBT consumer market."

"The Fortune 500 companies that include that protection contractually obligate the corporation to workplace equality," said Professor Ian Ayres, Yale Law School. "Since the inception of the Fortune 500 project, an additional 147 (29.4%) Fortune 500 companies now provide sexual orientation protection to a combined workplace of over 15 million employees."

"Equality Forum salutes GLBT workplace groups, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Human Rights Campaign and others for their efforts on behalf of workplace equality," stated Kevin Ray, Esq., Board Chair, Equality Forum.

For more information on the Fortune 500 Project, visit the Equality Forum website. The names of the Fortune 500 companies that are compliant and noncompliant are listed alphabetically and by revenue size, industry and the state in which they are headquartered.

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How sad that the so-called Equality Forum completely ignores the transgender community. Hardly surprising, I suppose. I met Malcolm Lazin at an NLGJA event in Philly once and wanted to take one of his information handouts to discuss EF's work on my show. Lazin refused to give me one, citing the fact that they were only for important (i.e. non-trans) media.

Sorry Bil, but personally I have even less respect for EF than I do for HRC. At least HRC acknowledges that there's a lot more work to be done in getting those Fortune 500 companies to also cover gender identity and expression, while EF likes to simply pretend we don't exist.

EF is the perfect example of what's wrong with our community's workplace equality efforts. Their lauding of gay and lesbian acceptance and ignoring the reality of the lack of transgender acceptance gives these companies a public pass on their transphobia.

As long as we continue to see our community as having four letters to the acronym, not two, EF is one of the poorest and most unabashedly elitist examples of so-called "workplace equality" advocacy out there. No one who really believes we're all in together as a community should either take them seriously or consider them credible.

Perhaps the title of your post should read "94% of Fortune 500 companies protect the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual members of our community." Or were you implying that transgender folks aren't part of "our community"?

Wow. Good call, Rebecca and Angel. I changed the title of the post to be a little more accurate.

And now is when I have to 'fess up to something. I have a horrible case of the flu - and have since Friday. I could get away without posting on the weekend and the holiday, but I knew I had to put something up today (especially since other contributors hadn't posted much today). I'm doped up on all sorts of meds and can barely stay awake long enough to write this comment. So I cheated.

It's a press release that I barely changed. And in my drug haze, I didn't notice that the trans community wasn't included. I should have, but I didn't. My apologies. I'm going back to bed and will check in tomorrow.

The idea that a Fortune 500 company is protecting any community other than its shareholders is pretty laughable.

Consider Coca-Cola: They have an HRC Buyer's Guide rating of 100%, but are at the center of an international "Killer Coke" campaign for their role in the murder of union leaders at bottling facilities in Columbia and environmental crimes in India.

Given the distinct possibility that, of the many people affected by Coke's violence, some of them are queer I find it pretty horrifying that they are being ranked as a model company by national gay rights groups here in the US.

When talking about making the Equality Forum more trans inclusive, where do we stop? Is it enough that a telecommunication company has gender identity included in its nondiscrimination policy when it charges 10x the actual cost for US prisoners to make phone calls, many of whom are poor queer and trans folks facing systematic criminalization and violence in the criminal justice system? I personally don’t think so.

PS-Get well soon, Bil.

Leland Frances | September 4, 2007 6:11 PM

This is great news but let's give more credit where more credit is due..... Whether or not one chooses to assume that Equality Forum's board chair meant to include NGLTF in the "others" he saluted "for their efforts on behalf of workplace equality," it bears pointing out that NGLTF was fighting for workplace equality years before HRC was even founded. In fact, their efforts precede HRC's by twenty years, for it wasn't until 1995 that HRC included such issues in their portfolio.

Further, NGLTF does not take money from Coors. Not only does HRC take money from Coors but they have also given Coors a 100% "Buy" recommendation in their “Corporate Equality Index despite evidence even they acknowledged in 2005—in very fine print—that some of Coors profits continue to fund homohating activities.

“It appears that a significant shareholder of Molson Coors Brewing Co. stock may have supported an institution whose primary mission includes undermining the goal of GLBT equality. To HRC’s knowledge, such support has not affected the company’s policies or practices related to GLBT employees.”

That footnote seems to be strangely missing from their 2006 report despite assurances that they “scrutinized filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to track connections between companies’ significant shareholders and any anti-gay organizations or activities. When ties were found between major shareholder and anti-gay activities, the information is footnoted in this report, but it does not impact a company’s score.” Nudge nudge wink wink....

Mary Cheney is no longer on Coors payroll to pimp for them among gays, so maybe it was HRC Business Council member Scott Coors waving shiny objects in front of their eyes so that they wouldn’t think to check the Heritage Foundation’s site where one can easily find:

“Hon. Holland H. "Holly" Coors, Heritage Trustee Since 1998, Golden, Colorado. Ambassador Holland H. Coors is the Founder and President of Women of Our Hemisphere Achieving Together. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Adolph Coors Foundation and the Castle Rock Foundation and is active in numerous other philanthropic and civic organizations. ‘Holly’ Coors served two terms on the United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors under President Ronald Reagan, who also appointed her United States Ambassador to the National Year of the Americas. The Coors family of Golden, Colo., has been active in Heritage’s leadership since its founding.”

Liberals and conservatives agree that the Heritage Foundation is THE most powerful and influential Right Wing “think tank”—read propaganda mill. It was begun with money from the Coors patriarch, and virulent opposition to LGBT equality is among their many fascist priorties.
Or could they have looked of the Website of the rabidly antigay Castle Rock Foundation started by the Coors, where anyone can see that 6 of their 7 trustees are still members of the Coors family, including Pete Coors who ran for US Senate in 2004 while calling for a US Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage equality.

So, no, it is not just “AN institution whose primary mission includes undermining the goal of GLBT equality” nor just "A" significant stockholder but at least six. In fact, it is not just two institutions but several Right Wing organizations who benefit from the participation and financial donations of Coors family members. In addition to Heritage and Castle Rock, these other pillars of the antigay industry include the Free Congress Foundation, the secretive Council on National Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, Young America's Foundation, the Leadership Institute, Media Research Center, Center for the Study of Popular Culture Institute for American Values, Independence Institute
While some of the information at the link below detailing the history of the Right Wing sentiments and funding by members of the Coors family is outdated, its overall message remains the same:

Money spent on Coors products helps fund the oppression, demonization, and continued second class citizenship of LGBT Americans.

If they're still in bed with the antigay industry why is HRC still in bed with them?

No worries, Bil. I'd assumed it just slipped by you.

Nick, I agree that it's not enough, but I'd point out that we're talking about two different, though equally important, things here. One concerns how a company treats it's own employees, the other how it deals with its customers and other entities outside of the company itself. As most anyone who's ever held a job knows well, those standards are usually quite different from one another.

Fair and equal treatment for all of a company's employees is an important step forward, and, I believe, probably a prerequisite for progress on the rest of the path toward good corporate citizenship. I mean, don't you think that before we get mega-corporations to behave responsibly in the marketplace, we have to get them to treat people responsibly within their own workplaces?