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Most Fortune 500 companies protect LGBT employees
Carolina companies in compliance

by Q-Notes staff
Equality Forum, an international LGBT civil rights organization, has announced that 463 of the 2007 Fortune 500 Companies voluntarily include sexual orientation in their employment non-discrimination policies. Equality Forum collaborated in the project with Professor Louis Thomas, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor, Yale Law School.

According to a Gallup Poll conducted May 10-13, the Values and Beliefs Poll showed that 89 percent 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 non-discrimination in their workplace statutes.

“When 92.6 percent of the Fortune 500 Companies and 89 percent of the public support workplace equality, Congress is derelict by its failure to include LGBT citizens in federal workplace discrimination protection,” says Malcolm Lazin, executive director of 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 37 Fortune 500 Companies that are noncompliant, 14 are headquartered in Texas. The good news is that of the 55 Fortune 500 Companies headquartered in the Lone Star State, 41 provide sexual orientation workplace equality.

In fall 2003, when Equality Forum began contacting Fortune 500 Companies, 323 companies provided sexual orientation protection. Equality Forum communicated with the 177 CEOs and HR directors of companies not offering that protection. By fall 2004, 405 Fortune 500 Companies included sexual orientation in workplace non-discrimination.

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,” says Thomas. “This workplace protection likewise sends an affirming message to the estimated $660 billion annual domestic LGBT consumer market.”

“The Fortune 500 Companies that include that protection contractually obligate the corporation to workplace equality,” says Ayres. “Since the inception of the Fortune 500 project, an additional 140 Fortune 500 companies now provide sexual orientation protection to a combined workplace of over 15 million employees.”

In North Carolina, there are 14 Fortune 500 companies, all of which are compliant. They are as follows: Bank of America, BB&T, Duke Energy, Family Dollar, Goodrich, Lowe’s, Nucor, Pantry, Progress Energy, Reynolds American, Sonic Automotive, SPX, VF and Wachovia.
In South Carolina there is one Fortune 500 company. The Scana Corporation also offers workplace protection to its LGBT employees.

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