Business Briefs: Bay Area companies earn high marks for pro-LGBT workplace policies
by Matthew S. Bajko
LGBT protections are likely to be targeted in the coming weeks by the supposedly business-friendly administration of President-elect Donald Trump, yet a large swath of corporate America has already decided that protecting LGBT employees is good for a company's bottom line.
A record breaking 517 businesses earned a top score of 100 percent and the coveted distinction of "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality" on the 2017 Corporate Equality Index, which the Human Rights Campaign released in early December. The national LGBT advocacy organization's HRC Foundation has been compiling the annual scorecard since 2002 and this year officially rated 887 companies.
The number of companies earning perfect marks increased substantially from the 407 that did in the 2016 report. And 647 companies in this year's CEI now offer transgender workers at least one health care plan that has transgender-inclusive coverage, noted HRC, a 314 percent increase since 2012, when the CEI first included trans-inclusive health care as a requisite for companies to receive a perfect score.
"Even in the face of relentless attempts to undermine equality, America's leading companies and law firms remain steadfast and committed to supporting and defending the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people," stated HRC President Chad Griffin. "The unprecedented expansion of inclusive workplaces across the country and around the globe not only reflects our progress, it helps drive it."
Griffin noted that, as the LGBT community enters "a new chapter in our fight for equality, support from the business community will be more critical than ever to protect our historic advancements over the last decade and to continue to push equality forward for workers, customers, and families around the world."
Bay Area scores
In the Bay Area alone, 51 companies earned perfect scores, including jeans purveyor Levi Strauss & Co., electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. , and financial giants Visa , Wells Fargo & Co. , and Charles Schwab & Co. Inc . Oakland-based The Clorox Company once again earned a 100 score, which it has maintained since 2006.
"We're honored to have been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for our progressive workplace policies and practices for more than a decade now," stated Dawn Willoughby, Clorox's chief operating officer and executive vice president of its Cleaning, International and Corporate Strategy, who also serves as executive sponsor of PRIDE, the company's employee resource group for LGBT employees. "Being named a Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality is a reflection of our company's commitment to diversity and inclusion at all levels – from the grassroots work of our employee and business resource groups to our senior leadership and board of directors. Together, they help create an environment where each and every person can thrive while contributing to the growth of the business."
Many technology companies also made the list, including Dropbox Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., Apple Inc. , Adobe Systems Inc. , Salesforce, Intel Corp., LinkedIn , eBay Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., and Twitter Inc.
A total of 123 major companies and law firms in California were included in the 2017 index with the average score 82 percent. Seventy earned 100 percent, 82 earned 90 percent and above, and 93 earned 80 percent and above.
Among the Bay Area-based companies, 56 earned a score of 95 or higher, with another 15 falling in the 65 to 90 range. Another four earned scores of 40 or lower.
For the second year in a row life sciences company Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., which is based in Waltham, Massachusetts but has seven workplaces located around the Bay Area, earned a 100 score. In an interview last week with the Bay Area Reporter, Charlotte A. McCormack, the company's senior manager for corporate public relations, said Thermo Fisher Scientific had made achieving a perfect score on the index a priority in 2015 after falling short of the target in years past.
One step it took was to update its health care policy so that transgender employees have access to "a full range of medically necessary services," said Kari Leetch, the company's senior director of human resources based at its Fremont location.
It also updated its philanthropic guidelines for the company's charitable giving matching program to include gender identity and established a companywide diversity council. And Thermo Fisher Scientific designated a person to focus specially on LGBT recruitment, retention, and development, noted Leetch, who is a straight ally.
"It definitely has had a positive impact for us," she said. "It is really empowering employees to come to work and be their true selves."
Marc N. Casper, the company's president and CEO, spoke out against the transphobic House Bill 2 in North Carolina, where Thermo Fisher Scientific also has work sites, and called for its repeal. The legislation, adopted last year, requires transgender people to use public restrooms based on the gender they were assigned at birth and restricts the state's cities and towns from banning LGBT discrimination.
Its enactment led many jurisdictions, including San Francisco and the state of California as of this month, to ban taxpayer-funded travel to the Tar Heel State. Yet lawmakers in Texas are now pushing a similar bill this year.
"We are a company standing by our commitment to the LGBTQ community and often have been active in opposing anti-LGBT legislation," said McCormack.
Thermo Fisher Scientific employs 2,983 people in the Bay Area, with 546 assigned to its Niche Diagnostics Center of Excellence in Fremont, which develops and manufactures products used worldwide in health care and other markets. While it doesn't know how many of its employees identify as LGBT, among its global workforce several dozen people belong to its LGBT employee group.
Leetch told the B.A.R. that having the HRC's seal of approval as a "best place to work" if you are LGBT has benefited the company's hiring efforts "in this geographic region specifically," referring to its work sites in the Bay Area. The company is committed to ensuring it achieves a perfect score on the 2018 index.
"This initiative is very important to us," said Leetch, and aligns with Thermo Fisher Scientific's commitment "to make our customers healthier and safer."
Another local company with a perfect score on the 2017 index is San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company , which for 13 years has been named by HRC as one of the best places for LGBT people to work, also was declared the 2016 Corporation of the Year by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
The business group bestowed the honor on the utility company at its 2016 National Dinner Awards, held November 18 in Washington, D.C. The award is given to a company that has gone above and beyond to ensure its LGBT suppliers, customers, and employees are treated fairly and given equal opportunities.
"PG&E has been a leader in diversity and inclusion for decades. We recognize that it's the strength of our diversity that makes our company and communities successful," stated PG&E Vice President, Federal Affairs and Policy and Chief Sustainability Officer Melissa Lavinson , who accepted the award on behalf of the company. "We're proud to be the first California utility to include LGBT in its supplier diversity program. Our commitment to diversity within the communities we serve is the right way to do business and how we'll continue to work together in building a better California."
Got a tip on LGBT business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:.