HRC Corporate Index Blasted By LGBT Labor Group

Every year, the Human Rights Campaign releases its corporate equality index, ranking the best companies in the United States based on their treatment of LGBT employees.

However, one labor group is calling for the nonprofit to reevaluate the way they do things.

“It doesn’t take the actual lived experiences of workers in the workplaces into consideration at all when giving these corporations rankings,” said Jerame Davis, the executive director of Pride at Work.

Pride at Work is an advocacy group under the constituency umbrella of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which has other groups that work to protect African American, Latino, Asian, seniors, and women’s interest groups.

The HRC started the CEI in 2002, and takes into account employee protections, inclusive healthcare, LGBT training, and other criteria when giving ranks. This year it ranked 781 corporations, and another 190 corporations were given unofficial scores since they did not participate in the survey.

Davis gave Walmart and T-Mobile as examples of companies that have high CEI rankings, but do not practice what they preach. Walmart received 90 out of a possible 100 in 2015, however, the corporation has a pending LGBT discrimination case. In July, a lesbian employee sued the company for not allowing her wife, who has cancer, access to her health insurance plan — she tried for six years to get her on her plan. Also, the Arkansas-based company stayed silent when anti-LGBT legislation was moving through the state Senate.

T-Mobile, which received a perfect 100 score, has participated in pride events and also supported marriage equality in Washington State in 2012. However, Pride at Work is critical with the company for it not allowing employees to unionize – an act it considers to be essentially anti-LGBT.

“There is no nationwide anti-LGBT discrimination policy and most states, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for being LGBT,” Davis pointed out. “In that kind of environment, the only real protection that an LGBT employee can get in most states is a collective bargaining agreement from a union. So when a company like T-Mobile harasses, fires, and intimidates workers who are trying to organize into a union, they are preventing LGBT people from getting the protection they need in the workplace.”

In a press release, Pride at Work alleged that the company has threatened employees who discuss organizing and has written down the license plate numbers of employees who accepted a union flier. Also, T-Mobile has been reprimanded multiple times by the National Labor Relations Board.

Pride at Work has met with the HRC multiple times, and has outlined solutions to better vetting companies before giving them a CEI ranking. This includes having a Pride at Work representative help to make sure that companies do not have open cases with unions as well as collecting documented cases of LGBT discrimination.

“It’s only once it blows up and becomes a public scandal before HRC will consider rolling back their corporate equality index score,” Davis said.

Davis said the HRC has not accepted their offer and is no longer taking meetings with them.

“Our CEI scoring process is transparent, and our criteria and data are fully available online,” the HRC said in a statement to SFGN. “Incredible strides have been made by many companies working with us who have embraced the philosophy that creating a fully-inclusive workplace is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”

The HRC added that its other programs also work to improve the lives of LGBT employees, such as “convening workplace forums and seminars, in-depth training engagements, ongoing person-to-person consultation, webinars, research, written guidance and employer/employee toolkits.”

As for companies who deserve their scores, Davis said AT&T is an example. It is a wall-to-wall unionized company, treats their LGBT employees well, and works with the unions. The company included sexual orientation in its company protections in 1975 and included same-sex couples in its domestic partner benefits in 1998.

Pride at Work also gave applause to the HRC for not utilizing a parking garage during its Chefs for Equality event in October when they alerted them there was a union dispute with parking attendants. The HRC instead used another lot and included an explanation in handouts to guests.

Originally published in South Florida Gay News.

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