By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation recently released its list of the best companies to work for. These companies show a commitment to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

The companies are scored based on the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) which considers a number of criteria, including:

  • Non-discrimination policy, diversity training — sexual orientation
  • Non-discrimination policy, diversity training & benefits — gender identity or expression

    Partner benefits

  • LGBT employee resource group / diversity council
  • Engages in appropriate and respectful advertising and marketing, or sponsors LGBT community events or organizations
  • Employer exhibits responsible behavior toward the LGBT community; does not engage in action that would undermine LGBT equality

According to HRC Foundation President Joe Salomonese, companies are increasingly recognizing that LGBT equality and inclusiveness programs are vital to employee retention. Even in this year’s tough economic climate, he writes, “The number of top-rated businesses continues to climb, reaching an unprecedented 305 businesses — a net increase of 45 over last year — representing more than 9.3-million full-time employees.”

He continued, “For every loss from bankruptcy or acquisition, several new businesses reached 100 percent.”

That so many companies are committed to creating an inclusive and diverse workplace shows their acknowledgment that a diverse workforce not only allows for happy employees, but it is good for the strength and development of the organization at large.

According to Robert Rigby-Hall, senior vice president, Global Human Resources at top scoring LexisNexis Group, “It is the diversity of our people and their ideas that creates strength for our business and customers around the world.”

Bob Bloss, senior vice president – human resources at Hallmark, another top scorer, echoed Rigby-Hall’s sentiments. “Our goal is to continue to create an environment in which diversity is embraced and diverse traits are leveraged as strengths, where every employee can perform to his or her potential, and in which his or her contributions are respected and appreciated.”

While many of the United States’ best companies recognized the benefits of supporting LGBT individuals within their workforce, several notable companies did not score very high, or even make the list.

The report states, “ExxonMobil continues to lose points for resisting shareholder pressure to amend its non-discrimination policies. Similarly, two other companies continued to oppose shareholder resolutions to amend their non-discrimination policies to include gender identity and lost points on their overall rating: Verizon Communications Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

That these top US companies continue to resist pressure from their own shareholders to embrace a diverse workforce reveals the continuing struggle of LGBT individuals to gain acceptance in the workplace. The growth of the HRC’s Foundations list this year shows a definite step in the right direction, but it also highlights the challenges ahead.

For the HRC Foundation’s full report on Best Places to Work, click here: