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Six Maryland-based firms got the highest possible score -- 100 -- for LGBT inclusiveness. (Illustration by Maximilian Franz, The Daily Record)

Maryland companies rank high in LGBT inclusion

Most are viewed as having inclusive workplaces

Maryland-based companies and law firms are doing very well with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion, according to a new report.

Human Rights Campaign released its 2015 Corporate Equality Index on Wednesday that ranked eight Maryland companies — seven received excellent scores. In fact, six of those seven companies, which include DLA Piper, T. Rowe Price and Lockheed Martin Corp., scored 100 percent and were named “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

“It’s kind of a rising tide lifts all boats situation. We continue to see increased positive statistics in terms of inclusion among CEI participants … this is moving the bar higher and higher across the board as a matter of business,” said Liz Cooper, Human Rights Council’s associate director of the Workplace Equality Program.

The ratings were determined by evaluations within five categories, including non-discrimination policies; employment benefits; demonstrated organizational competency and accountability regarding LGBT diversity and inclusion; public commitment to LGBT equality; and responsible citizenship.

“We’re on really solid ground that the designation is based on objective, transparent, attainable criteria. So, it’s not based on how employees feel if their employer is gay-friendly or not, it’s based on really concrete, measurable pillars,” Cooper said.

Constellation Energy Group Inc. received a 90 percent rating and missed receiving a perfect score because it did not offer a transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage.

Bethesda-based Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., which was given a 15 percent rating, was the only Maryland company to receive a poor rating on the index. The real estate investment trust and lodging owner was marked down for a variety of reasons, including not offering a transgender inclusive health insurance option, not positively engaging the external LGBT community and not specifically prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. did not return a call seeking comment on this story.

Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights organization, touted the progress companies and law firms have made on the index in recent years. This year 366 businesses of the 781 rated in the index received ratings of 100 percent. Just two years ago only 189 companies received a perfect rating, and when the first index was released more than a decade ago 13 businesses received the top rating.

The organization also noted that 89 percent of the companies surveyed include gender identity in non-discrimination policies and that the number of companies offering at least one transgender inclusive health care plan has increased by 22 percent from 2012 levels.

“We’re still operating in a space where LGBT employees do not have federal employment protections. It’s still legal in 29 states to be fired, or otherwise denied a job, for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual and for the same reason in 32 states based on gender identity,” said Cooper said. “So there’s a significant legal void that continues to exist in terms of employment protection, and since 2002 the Corporate Equality Index has been able to fill in those significant legal gaps in corporate America.”

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.