CHICAGO—Equality Illinois, the state's LGBTQ civil rights organization, is recognizing 51 law firms in Illinois, a 25 percent increase from last year, for leading the way in 2017 in providing a welcoming and fair work environment for LGBTQ employees and for supporting the LGBTQ community.
The recognition results from the annual Equality Illinois Law Firm Survey, which found that more law firms are willing to create affirming work spaces for their own employees, engage the LGBTQ community and demand that the vendors and contractors with whom they work show the same respect.
"As the surveys were sent out earlier this summer, we expressed our appreciation to the law firms that are regular participants over the years, but we also focused on those that hadn't previously replied, asking them to demonstrate their commitment to LGBTQ equality. We couldn't be more pleased that a total of 51 firms, compared to 40 last year, rose to the challenge," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois.
"As civic leaders and protectors of our legal and civil rights, these firms lead other businesses to support their LGBTQ workers and job candidates and showcase how to be good corporate citizens," Johnson said.
The law firms are being honored Tuesday ( Aug. 1 ) at the 2017 Raising the Bar breakfast, which will feature remarks by Greg Nevins, Director of Lambda Legal's Employment Fairness Project and an attorney defending LGBTQ workers in major employment discrimination cases, at least one of which is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Among other cases, Nevins successfully argued in Chicago before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of fired lesbian teacher Kimberly Hively of Indiana. The court ruled in April her termination was unlawful, becoming the first federal appeals court to find sexual-orientation discrimination is sex discrimination under the U.S. Civil Rights Act.
Another employment discrimination case, however, is being appealed to the Supreme Court after the U.S. 11th Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled against George hospital worker Jameka Evans, who was fired because she is lesbian. "We're set up to file ... before the Supreme Court and ask them to resolve this once and for all and say on a national level that you cannot fire people under federal law for being lesbian, gay or bisexual," Nevins said.
"Greg Nevins and his team at Lambda Legal have been advancing workplace equality through fighting in the nation's courtrooms, and it is appropriate that this event honoring Illinois lawyers hears about this battle from someone on the front lines," Johnson said.
With the information gathered from the 2017 Equality Illinois Law Firm Survey, Equality Illinois identified the 51 law firms in Illinois that are leading the way to LGBTQ workplace equality and community engagement. The full Equality Illinois Raising the Bar 2017 report will be published Tuesday, Aug. 1 on our website www.equalityillinois.org .
These findings apply to the largest firms in the survey, those with 50 or more attorneys. Almost all of the firms have non-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQ-inclusive diversity groups, train employees on diversity awareness including sexual orientation and gender identity, actively recruit LGBTQ lawyers and financially support LGBTQ organizations and community events:
Workforce and Workplace practices
* For the fifth year in a row, more than 98% of responding firms have an EEO policy or non-discrimination policy that expressly included sexual orientation.
* 89% of all responding firms have an EEO policy or non-discrimination policy that includes gender identity and/or gender expression
* 59% of responding firms have written gender transition guidelines documenting supportive firm policy on issues such as name changes, restroom accommodations, dress codes, and harassment.
* In a growing trend, 52% of responding firms require their vendors or contractors to have a nondiscrimination policy that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression in order to provide staff or engage in business with the firm.
* 86% of responding firms include transition-related care in all company-sponsored insurance plans.
* 100% of responding firms have a diversity council or workgroup with a mission that includes LGBTQ issues.
* 84% of responding firms have an officially recognized LGBTQ affinity group that focuses on LGBTQ legal issues and clients.
* 88% of responding firms provide diversity awareness or employee training addressing sexual orientation or gender expression
* 69% of responding firms require diversity awareness or employee training addressing sexual orientation or gender identity and expression on a mandatory basis.
* 93% of responding firms actively recruit/hire LGBTQ lawyers.
* 100% of responding firms support professional development of LGBTQ attorneys and staff.
* 84% of responding firms support professional development of LGBTQ law students
* 95% of responding firms provided financial support and/or resources to educational, political, and/or health-related LGBTQ organizations during the past year.
* 82% of firms specifically market to the LGBTQ community or highlight their LGBTQ diversity in marketing and/or promotional materials.
Equality Illinois works with law firms and many other businesses to improve their inclusiveness. For the recognized law firms, inclusion in the 2017 Equality Illinois "Raising the Bar" report is highly valued.
The 48 larger law firms being recognized, in alphabetical order, are:
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer
Arnstein & Lehr
Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd
Chapman and Cutler
Drinker Biddle & Reath
Foley & Lardner
Hinshaw & Culbertson
Holland & Knight
Howard and Howard
Jenner & Block
K & L Gates
Katten Muchin Rosenman
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
McDermott Will & Emery
Michael Best & Friedrich
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
Neal Gerber & Eisenberg
Quarles & Brady
Ropes & Gray
Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Winston & Strawn
Three Small Firms of Distinction, with 12 attorneys or less, are also being honored:
Tapella and Eberspacher
Sgro, Hanrahan, Durr & Rabin
Yearwood and Associates