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Workplace Improves For Gays But Most Still Have No


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Workplace Improves For Gays But Most Still Have No Protections

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: September 20, 2005 9:30 am ET

(Washington) The number of major corporations with written policies protecting the rights of LGBT workers has improved significantly according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign, but the vast majority of American workers are employed by small companies which offer few if any protections.

In its fourth-annual Corporate Equality Index, HRC graded 402 U.S. companies with at least 500 employees on their treatment of LGBT workers.

This year 101 companies got a perfect score, close to doubling last year's group of 56 companies that received 100 percent.

The top-ranked companies included Dow Chemical Co., Chevron Corp. and Walgreen Co.

"Equality now illuminates thousands of factory floors, board rooms and cubicles across America," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "The enormous growth we've tracked in fair employee policies proves that corporate America is making good on the old adage: what's good for business is good for America."

But, even as the HRC was touting its progress in diversifying the workplace some companies continue to discriminate. And one, ExxonMobil, remains the only U.S. company to roll back both benefits eligibility for its employees' domestic partners and a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy.

A second survey released Tuesday shows that gay workers have growing support among their straight counterparts.

The national Out & Equal Workplace Summit survey indicates that three-quarters of heterosexual adults strongly agree that employees should be measured by their job performance, not their sexual orientation. In addition, more than half of heterosexual adults feel that regardless of sexual orientation, all employees are entitled to equal benefits on the job, such as health insurance for their partners or spouses.

The online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications.

The survey also shows that in the last three years, heterosexuals and LGBT adults increasingly consider diversity to be an important factor when deciding which company to work for.

"Regardless of how Americans feel about LGBT issues, majorities still support fair treatment for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender peers in the workplace," said Selisse Berry, executive director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

"Employers are demonstrating leadership in providing parity for LGBT people, helping all employees understand the value of diversity in the workforce."

Nevertheless, few small businesses - the companies that employ the majority of people in the nation's workforce - have no written non discrimination policies.

LGBT workers for many municipal and state governments - another major source of employment - are without protections or benefits.

In Michigan, for instance, the state Corrections Organization, Michigan State Employees Association, Service Employees International Union, AFSCME and UAW, had successfully bargained for a jobs benefits package. The package included medical benefits and family medical leave for their families, including domestic partners and their children.

But, despite the agreement with the unions, in December, 2004, Governor Jennifer Granholm announced that domestic partner benefits would be removed from the contracts following a legal opinion from Attorney General Mike Cox that the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year bars all public employers from providing domestic partner benefits. (story).

The issue is currently before the courts in Michigan.

On the federal level where several hundred thousand people are employed, the the Office of Special Counsel to obey an executive order that traditionally has been used to protect gays in the civil service. The Office of the Special Counsel is responsible for investigating allegations of discrimination in the federal government.

Appearing in May before the the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce and the District of Columbia, Scott Bloch, the director of the agency, said that his interpretation of the executive order, signed during the Clinton presidency, cannot be used to protect gay workers because it does not specifically name LGBT workers. (story)

Last week the House passed legislation to specifically protect LGBT workers. (story) Even if it passes the Senate there is no indication the President will sign the bill.

©365Gay.com 2005


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