Perfect score for foodservice companies on workplace equality

Aramark and McDonald's among the companies named as the best places to work for LGBTQ employees, as Chris Evans reports

The foodservice sector is leading the way on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workplace equality and inclusion, according to the latest Corporate Equality Index (CEI) from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Twenty-five food and beverage companies, including Coca-Cola, Burger King and McDonald’s, got a 100% score on the index, which surveys the practices of hundreds of major global employers.

The Index rating criteria have three key pillars: non-discrimination policies across business entities; equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families; and supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility.

Inclusion a priority

This year, companies had to meet further criteria of ensuring full spousal and partner healthcare coverage parity; affirming coverage for transition-related care and eliminating all so-called “transgender exclusions” from plans; and ensuring full LGBTQ inclusion in diverse supply chain programs.

While this shows that many food sector companies have come a long way, some companies clearly have some catching up to do. A few only managed a rating of between 0 and 60 (which constitutes a fail), including US Foods Inc, Palm Management Corp, Gastronomy Inc, and Dole Food Co Inc. But the people behind the study believe the overall picture is positive.

“From cupboard staples to family restaurants, the companies behind the brands that feed America have demonstrated that LGBTQ inclusion for employees, their families and customers is a priority,” says Beck Bailey, acting director of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program.

In recent years, the likes of Burger King and McDonald’s have launched initiratives such as wrapping their food in rainbow coloured packaging in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Some have criticised exercises like this as marketing gimmicks, but the HRC index shows they’re also implementing more comprehensive measures – as are hundreds of other businesses from other sectors.

Good for business

Across all businesses, 85% of the Fortune 500 have gender identity protections enumerated in their non-discrimination policies. Compare this to just 3% in 2002. Furthermore, 97% of all the CEI businesses offer explicit gender identity non-discrimination protections. Up from just 5% in 2002.

Most telling was that there were no companies offering transgender-inclusive health care coverage 2002 – today 62% of the Fortune 500 and over 84% of the CEI businesses provide such coverage.

“One of the striking things about the high-scoring participants in the Corporate Equality Index is that they span every industry, with operations across all states and headquarters in 47 of 50 states,” adds Bailey.

“While only 22 states have employment non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and 21 for gender identity, America’s largest and most successful companies, regardless of region, recognize the need for these protections and more – they invest to actively attract, engage and retain their LGBTQ workers.”

HRC president Chad Griffin concludes: “Time and again, leading American businesses have shown that protecting their employees and customers from discrimination isn’t just  the right thing to do – it’s also good for business.”

Chris Evans

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