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A Workplace Fairness Issue in Utah?

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. 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. Courtesy of CH2M Hill.
August 24, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY - All but a handful of the nation's Fortune 500 companies now voluntarily include protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. That makes most major companies more inclusive than Utah.

In the Beehive State, people can still lose their jobs because they are gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

When the Equality Forum first began polling the Fortune 500 in 2004, about two-thirds had anti-discrimination policies that included sexual orientation and gender identity. Today, the list has grown to 95 percent. Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin says it's just one sign of changing times.

"I think what is obviously encouraging is that, within the last two years, we have now seen sexual orientation and gender identity included in the federal hate crime bill; and then most recently, Congress repealed 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.' "

The only Utah-based company in the Fortune 500, Huntsman International, includes sexual orientation protection as part of its human resource policies. In the past week, Lazin says, two more companies have added language to their rules protecting LGBT workers from discrimination, bringing the total to 479.

The survey also raises what Lazin calls "a legitimate question about Mitt Romney's values." Of the presidential candidates and their running mates, he says Romney is the only one who has not voiced support for changing the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act to include LGBT workers.

"Particularly in the presidential debates, this is a question that needs to be asked. Gov. Romney campaigned in Massachusetts as being very 'pro-gay' - I mean very pro-gay - and now that he's running for president, his positions on this, and obviously a lot of other issues, have changed."

Lazin says a majority of people in both political parties have said they support affording LGBT workers the same anti-discrimination protections as those based on religion, race, age or gender.

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

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT