The Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization, recently announced that 470 (94%) of the 2007 Fortune 500 companies voluntarily include sexual orientation in their employment nondiscrimination policies. Equality Forum collaborates in this project with Professor Louis Thomas, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor, Yale Law School.
According to Gallup's May 10-13, 2007, Values and Beliefs Poll, 89% 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 nondiscrimination in their workplace statutes.
"When 94% of the Fortune 500 companies and 89% of the public support workplace equality, Congress is derelict by its failure to include GLBT citizens in federal workplace discrimination protection," stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of the 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 30 Fortune 500 companies that are noncompliant, 13 (43.3%) are headquartered in Texas. "When it comes to equality, Texas is a lone and tarnished star," Lazin stated.
In fall 2003, when Equality Forum began contacting Fortune 500 companies, 323 (64.6%) companies provided sexual orientation protection. Equality Forum communicated with the 177 (35.4%) CEOs and HR Directors of companies not offering that protection. By fall 2004, 405 (81%) Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in workplace nondiscrimination.
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," stated Professor Louis Thomas. "This workplace protection likewise sends an affirming message to the estimated $660 billion annual domestic GLBT consumer market."
"The Fortune 500 companies that include that protection contractually obligate the corporation to workplace equality," said Professor Ian Ayres, Yale Law School. "Since the inception of the Fortune 500 project, an additional 147 (29.4%) Fortune 500 companies now provide sexual orientation protection to a combined workplace of over 15 million employees."
"Equality Forum salutes GLBT workplace groups, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Human Rights Campaign and others for their efforts on behalf of workplace equality," stated Kevin Ray, Esq., Board Chair, Equality Forum.
For more information on the Fortune 500 Project, visit the Equality Forum website. The names of the Fortune 500 companies that are compliant and noncompliant are listed alphabetically and by revenue size, industry and the state in which they are headquartered.