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HRC reviews workplace index at presentation
by David Thill
2017-06-11

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People might like to know whether that job offer you just received is with an LGBT-supportive firm. They may—or may not—also like to know how LGBT-friendly your favorite restaurant or clothing store is. Either way, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) makes it easier than ever to find out those issues.

HRC reviewed findings from the 2017 Corporate Equality Index at a June 6 presentation hosted by Northern Trust bank with support from Out & Equal Chicagoland ( OEC ) as part of OEC's "Citywide Pride" event line-up. The presentation, which took place at Northern Trust, brought together Chicago-area employees to learn about HRC's Corporate Equality Index, from its past to its present and future.

Developed by HRC's research and advocacy arm, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in 2002, the CEI is a measure of LGBT-supportiveness in the workplace. "[W]hen HRC looked at the way to impact the most Americans—when federal, state and local policies weren't granting them equality—they realized one of the best ways to do it was through their workplace," said Anne Klingeberger, who serves on HRC's Board of Governors, at the June 6 event.

The biggest factor affecting a company's CEI score is a survey, typically completed by a firm's representative, that asks questions about workplace-protection policies, benefits, organizational competency and other topics. Fortune 1000 companies and The American Lawyer magazine's top 200 revenue-grossing law firms ( the Am Law 200 ) are invited to participate, and other large private-sector businesses can request to participate as well.

Though participation is mostly voluntary ( some companies are automatically evaluated ), the HRC Foundation finds that the majority of companies invited to participate want to participate, said Klingeberger. In 2002, 319 companies received scores; in 2017, 887 did.

The HRC Foundation periodically revises the criteria to reflect legal changes and best practices. For example, the 2017 CEI—which was released in November—included a requirement that businesses must explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination protections in all of their operations, both within the U.S. and globally, to earn 100 percent—the highest possible score.

Three changes will be implemented for the 2019 CEI, for which the survey will be issued around April 2018. First, companies must offer full parity of benefits for same-sex and opposite-sex spouses as well as same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners. ( As states began legalizing same-sex marriage, some companies reportedly stopped offering domestic partner benefits in those states, instead offering only spousal benefits. Some companies also indicated they would stop offering domestic partner benefits after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage constitutional across the country in 2015. )

Next, companies must remove blanket exclusions for transition-related health care for transgender employees in all health care plans ( while maintaining HRC's current standards for equal coverage of transgender individuals ). And finally, businesses that have supplier diversity procurement programs, which have traditionally included women- and minority-owned suppliers, must also include LGBT-owned suppliers. ( The full explanation of these changes can be found at HRC.org/resources/corporate-equality-index-2019-criteria-updates. )

The Buyer's Guide

The CEI scores result in several key resources. The first, the HRC Foundation's "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality," is the list of companies that received 100 percent on the latest CEI. Additionally, the HRC Foundation features an online searchable database of private and public sector U.S. employers, with information about each one's workplace policies pertaining to LGBT employees.

The last resource is the "Buying for Workplace Equality" guide, also known as the "Buyer's Guide." Available in print, online and as a smartphone app, the guide allows consumers to learn how businesses they frequent fare on the CEI. For example, said Klingeberger, a customer in need of paint might consult the Buyer's Guide to find out how supportive the hardware store True Value is of its LGBT employees. ( True Value received a 95 on the 2017 CEI, a color-coded green "Highest Score" mark from the HRC Foundation. )

At her presentation, Klingeberger declined to name companies that scored poorly on the CEI. Instead, she encouraged attendees to find that information on their own by using the app, adding that the CEI is a "tool for improvement" to help companies improve their workplaces. Indeed, according to the latest report, the 2017 CEI saw the largest increase ever in top-rated businesses, with 515 employers earning perfect scores.

The afternoon ended with an award in honor of Northern Trust's 100 percent CEI score, presented to Deidra Jenkins, Northern Trust's senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer for the Americas. Jenkins noted that Northern Trust has participated in the CEI for all of the CEI's 15 years, and received 100 percent 11 years, 10 of them consecutively. She referred to Andrés Tapia, a senior partner at Korn Ferry and author of the book "The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity," who has said that diversity is "the mix," and inclusion is "making the mix work."

To view the 2017 CEI report, visit assets.hrc.org//files/assets/resources/CEI-2017-Final.pdf .


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