If you're counsel for a Fortune 500 company (or a company that hopes to make it big one day), you may want to consider how your client stacks up when it comes to LGBT workplace equality.
The Human Rights Campaign's 2013 Corporate Equality Index ranks some of the biggest companies in the country, including multinational corporations, on how their policies address equality for LGBT employees. (For example, Thomson Reuters, FindLaw.com's parent company, scored 100 percent on the 2013 Corporate Equality Index.)
The Index describes the factors the HRC considered when rating each company -- factors that could be helpful for your client to consider as well. Not only is LGBT equality is the law in some states, but it's also good policy when it comes to preventing discrimination lawsuits.
As part of its 2013 survey, the HRC rated companies based on non-discrimination policies and benefits packages for LGBT employees and their spouses. Beyond that, a company's LGBT competency and commitment to LGBT equality were also included in the ratings.
Bottom line: The words your client uses in its policies are important, both for legal and personal reasons.
Many states already prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. But many Fortune 500 companies surveyed also included the words "gender identity" to better protect transgender employees. That earned them a better rating in the HRC's report.
Benefits packages for LGBT employees were also a focus on the survey, and in the next year or two, it will likely become a much bigger issue for employers.
As it now appears the Affordable Care Act will be around for at least the next few years, many companies are scrambling to update their health benefits for employees and their spouses. Given the Supreme Court's upcoming review of DOMA, that may soon apply to same-sex couples as well.
Rather than waiting for LGBT employment rights to become federal law, it may be worthwhile to suggest that your clients update their policies now.
Keeping up with public opinion, and one step ahead of legal requirements, means that down the road, your policies will already be compliant. It can also double as a selling point for your client.
Employee satisfaction is an important part of corporate success, and policies that treat all employees fairly promote that kind of loyalty. Maybe it's time to update your client's policies to reflect LGBT workplace eqaulity so that every employee knows he or she is valued.
- Thomson Reuters is ranked 'best place to work for LGBT equality' (Thomson Reuters)
- 5 Strategies to Prevent Ex-Employee Lawsuits (FindLaw's In House)
- How to Handle an EEOC Discrimination Charge (FindLaw's In House)