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OR Companies: LGBT Inclusion, by Law and by Choice

PHOTO: CH2M Hill is one company on the Equality Forum list, for its efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive engineering workforce. Here, employees represent the firm at a high school and college career fair (in Milwaukee, Wisc.) Courtesy of CH2M Hill.
PHOTO: CH2M Hill is one company on the Equality Forum list, for its efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive engineering workforce. Here, employees represent the firm at a high school and college career fair (in Milwaukee, Wisc.) Courtesy of CH2M Hill.
August 24, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Equality Forum's Fortune 500 Non-Discrimination Project found a record 479 of the companies voluntarily include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination rules. That's up from 323 when the survey began eight years ago.

Oregon enacted state laws to ensure workplace fairness in 2007. However, Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum executive director, says in many places that still isn't the case.

"In most states, there is no protection - so literally, one can be fired simply because of their status of being gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender, without any reference whatsoever to any misconduct of any sort."

Two Fortune 500 firms are based in Oregon - Nike and Precision Castparts - and both have additional protections for LGBT workers in their policies. Lazin says putting it in writing has a couple of important benefits for companies, large or small.

"In terms of their prospective employees, say, 'Yes, we are a place which does not discriminate.' And number two, send a message to customers, who certainly much prefer to patronize companies that support equality."

A bipartisan effort is under way in Congress to include these protections in the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and Lazin says a number of the companies on the list have offered to testify in favor of amending the law. He doesn't expect that to happen before the November election.

The full study is online at equalityforum.com/fortune500.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR