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94.2% of 2008 Fortune 500 companies provide protections for gay employees

Equality Forum news release:

Senator Obama and Senator McCain Take Opposite Positions on Sexual Orientation Workplace Protection

PHILADELPHIA—Equality Forum, a national and international gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) civil rights organization, reported that 471 (94.2%) of the 2008 FORTUNE 500 companies voluntarily include sexual orientation in their employment nondiscrimination policies.  This year marks the fifth anniversary of Equality Forum’s FORTUNE 500 project, which is a collaboration with Professor Louis Thomas, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor, Yale Law School. 

“The FORTUNE 500 have overwhelmingly decided that including sexual orientation is in the best corporate interest and helps communicate corporate values to the estimated $660 billion annual domestic GLBT consumer market,” stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum. 

According to Gallup’s May 2008 Values and Beliefs Poll, 89% of U.S. citizens believe gays and lesbians should have equal rights in job opportunities.  There is currently no federal workplace protection based on sexual orientation.  Twenty states include sexual orientation nondiscrimination in their workplace statutes.

Senator Obama favors and Senator McCain opposes including sexual orientation in the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  In 2007, the House of Representatives voted 235 to 184 to amend ENDA to add sexual orientation.  Thirty-five Republicans voted for the amendment.

In fall 2003, when Equality Forum began contacting the FORTUNE 500 companies, 323 (64.6%) companies explicitly provided sexual orientation protection in their workplace policies.  Equality Forum reached out to the CEOs, Human Resource Directors and all members of the Boards of Directors of the 177 (35.4%) companies without this protection.  By fall 2004, 405 (81%) FORTUNE 500 companies included sexual orientation in workplace nondiscrimination policies.

Equality Forum and Professors Thomas and Ayres communicated with 25 large institutional investors to solicit their support on proxy statements requesting sexual orientation nondiscrimination at companies not providing that protection.  In response, Vanguard was among the large institutional shareholders that determined that it was in the best shareholder interest to support sexual orientation workplace protection.

Exxon Mobil is the largest of the FORTUNE 500 that does not specifically provide sexual orientation protection.  At the 2006, 2007 and 2008 annual Exxon Mobil shareholders meetings, Vanguard voted its proxy of 194 million shares for including sexual orientation workplace equality and against Exxon Mobil management’s opposition.

For more information on the FORTUNE 500 Project, visit www.equalityforum.com/fortune500.  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.

Equality Forum is a national and international GLBT civil rights organization with an educational focus.  Equality Forum undertakes high impact national initiatives, coordinates GLBT History Month, produces documentary films and presents the largest annual national and international GLBT civil rights forum.  For more information about Equality Forum, please visit www.equalityforum.com.

For full details including lists of top companies that do and don't provide protections, click here.

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