The Human Rights Campaign recently released its 2016 Corporate Equality Index, in which 407 companies received perfect scores for their treatment of LGBT employees.
The CEI rates companies based on their “corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees,” including one new factor this year: the anti-discrimination policies that multinational companies have in place for their LGBT employees abroad. This new consideration was born from the frustrations of LGBT activists who noticed a marked difference in the treatment of LGBT employees in the United States as compared to overseas.
Among the 407 companies who earned perfect scores are Apple, Google, Marriott, and the Walt Disney Company. There are misgivings among activists, however, who believe that some of these companies do not deserve their scores or their designation as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.” For example, activist and former Human Rights Watch staffer Scott Long expressed concern about the inclusion of Marriott, which supports the “repressive and homophobic” government of current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
One other large point of contention raised by activists is the failure of the HRC to differentiate between corporate policies and the actual lived experiences of LGBT employees. Many organizations and companies are inclusive and tolerant on paper, and even have thorough non-discrimination policies, but the very real environments in which their employees operate often continue to be oppressive and dangerous. Employees have little support on the state level, as only nineteen states currently have employment discrimination legislation that covers both gender identity and sexual orientation.
The HRC’s Workplace Equality Program Director, Deena Fidas, still made a claim for the validity of the CEI, saying that “when in 31 states there are still no legal protections for LGBT employees at risk for being fired simply for who they are or who they love, it is significant that a growing number of private sector employers are committing to non-discrimination protections here and around the world.”
It is indeed heartening to see stronger corporate policies in defense of our LGBT community. But the CEI or other reports like it need to delve deeper into the real experiences of LGBT employees, not merely rely on the letter of the law, in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the state of LGBT employment in the United States.