HRC Report Shows More Companies Supporting LGBTQ Employees

An individual stands up for queer workers outside of the Supreme Court in October of 2019 as the court heard arguments in LGBTQ employment cases.
Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

More businesses are vowing to support LGBTQ employees than ever before.

Findings from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a measure of LGBTQ workplace equality, reveals 767 out of 1,142 businesses surveyed received a top score of 100 and are now designated as the “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”

The report is the first since the Supreme Court ruled last year that LGBTQ workers are protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Last year, 686 workplaces received this exact score, which is a jump of nearly 12 percent. The latest numbers show growing corporate support for LGBTQ workers and represent a whopping 13 million workers nationwide and globally. This year’s numbers mark a big step toward improving the lives of LGBTQ employees.

Alphonso David, the Human Rights Campaign president, said these changes occurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic and during the nation’s reckoning with racial injustice.

“Yet, many businesses across the nation stepped up and continued to prioritize and champion LGBTQ equality,” David said in a written statement.”The progress made since the CEI’s inception is truly astounding and proves these initiatives have a deep impact on the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ workers.”

According to the report, more businesses are prioritizing LGBTQ people in almost every area of the workplace, including explicit protections in workplace manuals, domestic partner benefits, workplace diversity training, and culture, as well as vowing to support LGBTQ legislation and policies.

Ninety-four percent of Fortune 500 companies and 99.7 percent of all businesses considered in this report include gender identity in their non-discrimination policies. About 0.3 percent of businesses do not provide these protections, the report shows. Sexual orientation is clearly protected in 458 Fortune 500 companies; 448 include gender identity. The report notes that 893 companies provide benefits for same and different gender spouses and partners.

Additionally, the report found a growing number of businesses are providing healthcare benefits for transgender employees. Seventy-one percent of Fortune 500 companies and 91 percent of all CEI-rated businesses offer trans-inclusive health insurance coverage. This was a stark difference from 2002 when no companies provided gender-affirming coverage to trans employees.

“Many employers have begun to address health insurance coverage for transgender individuals comprehensively, and most have experienced insignificant or no premium increases as a result,” the report noted.

However, just over half of the companies surveyed have implemented transition guidelines to support trans employees. Employers often support newly out trans workers by including gender-inclusive restrooms, removing discriminatory dress codes, and updating worker documents or IDs.

Plus, employers are standing up for LGBTQ rights outside of work. More than 300 companies support the Equality Act, a federal bill amending Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, employment, healthcare, education, and other areas of public life.

To calculate the findings, researchers compiled the businesses’ non-discrimination guidelines and examined workplace culture. Benefits that were evaluated included LGBTQ workers and their families, as well as their corporate support of LGBTQ policies.

While these statistics highlight progress for LGBTQ workers, it does not provide a full picture of the workplace conditions impacting queer and trans people. Lower-income LGBTQ people and those employed as sex workers face significant barriers and disparities compared to others.

The group suggests these findings illustrate just a small part of LGBTQ workplace inclusion.

“Diversity and inclusion policies and practices advanced through tools like the CEI are critical, but meaningful change requires breathing life into these policies in real and tangible ways, so that LGBTQ employees are truly seen, valued, and respected not only at work, but in every aspect of life,” David said.

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