By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), the educational arm of the Nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, issued a statement citing the LGBT community’s gains.
The organization claims that “many Alabama employers support protections and benefits for LGBT workers.” Furthermore they said, “other major companies within Alabama are rated highly according to the index.” The HRC is working toward “a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.”
The world may well be on its way. HRC cited its own Corporate Equality Index (CEI) as proof.
The organization claims their index “has become a roadmap for U.S. businesses in the growing field of LGBT equality in the workplace. Further, the HRC said the index has been accepted nationally as a “benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees.” The CEI criteria apply to business operations throughout the United States, including wholly-owned subsidiaries.”
Alabama’s lone Fortune 500 Company, Regions Financial, scored an 85 on the index. HRC cited the corporations “recent implementation of gender identity protections.” Other banks like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo were among roughly 200 business that received a 100 percent score in 2011.
While Alabama based businesses may be dragging their feet a little a little too slowly for the HRC, the organization took time to praise 366 out-of-state companies that obtained a perfect score in 2014.
HRC also provided a survey’s findings that described the prevalence of discrimination in the workplace. According to a survey provided by the HRC, 38 percent of LGBT respondents experience harassment at work and a quarter experienced some other form of employment discrimination.
The CEI scores businesses across five categories: non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion, public commitment to LGBT equality, and responsible citizenship.
As you may remember, the Human Rights Campaign also organized the Project One America initiative in Alabama. This project will spend $8.5 million in a multi-year campaign to expand rights to the LGBT in the South.
418 companies participating in this year’s CEI now offer transgender workers at least one health care plan that has transgender-inclusive coverage – a 22 percent increase since 2012. One third of Fortune 500 companies now offer health care, up from zero in 2002; and Gender identity is now part of non-discrimination policies at 66 percent of Fortune 500 companies, up 63 percent from the first year scoring began.
The organization claims progress is being felt far beyond the ranks of the Fortune 500. One of the primary purposes of the CEI, according to the HRC, is also to encourage small and medium-sized companies to increase workplace acceptance by extending similar inclusive benefits and protections to LGBT employees.
It may take more money, and a lot more time before Alabama’s small and medium-sized businesses are persuaded enough to help the organization achieve its goal.