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UPS scores big on HRC corporate index despite earlier troubles

by Heather Cassell
Thursday Sep 27, 2007
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United Parcel Service Inc. received a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index 2008 despite criticism the company received earlier this year when it refused to provide benefits to civil union partners of its employees in New Jersey.

The shipping giant reversed itself in late July, and announced it would provide the benefits to hourly employees covered under the collective bargaining agreement.

In the HRC report released Monday, September 17, UPS jumped to 100 percent from its 80 percent ranking in 2006.

Federal Express showed static results by remaining at 55 percent two years in a row. UPS’ jump in the index was a first for the shipping industry setting an example, according to Daryl Herrschaft, director of HRC’s workplace project.

The HRC Corporate Equality Index measures Fortune 500 companies and private firms in a variety of industries based on their LGBT and gender identity employment policies as well as other factors that include a company’s "reactive or proactive approach" to LGBT employees, Herrschaft said.

The index started in 2002 when 89 out of 319 Fortune 500 companies and private firms responded to HRC’s first survey. Thirteen of those companies scored 100. The 2008 report lists 195 major U.S. businesses as scoring 100 percent, an increase of 41 percent from the 138 companies that scored 100 percent in the 2006 report.

HRC chose to match the year in the index’s title to the year that it is used, hence 2008 is used in the title. Previously, the index’s year reflected the year surveys were compiled. Herrschaft said that this would prolong the shelf life of the index.

There are only three mail and freight delivery companies that participated in the index. FedEx, according to an HRC press release Monday, "does not provide benefits for domestic partners firm-wide, including to married same-sex couples in Massachusetts." YRC Worldwide Inc., based in Overland Park, Kansas, received only a 30 percent score in its first year in the index.

UPS’ dramatic turnaround and proactive response regarding its policies is what helped it receive the 100 percent score.

"Because they were very proactive and rectified the situation immediately [and] they pledged to work to provide health insurance benefits across all union contracts," said Herrschaft, "we felt that they had met a threshold that allowed us to award them that score."

Elizabeth Rasberry, spokeswoman for UPS corporate headquarters in Atlanta, told the Bay Area Reporter that the confusion in New Jersey was due to a misunderstanding between the union’s contract and the state’s recognition of civil unions being equal to marriage. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in October 2006 that same-sex couples must have the same rights as marriage. The legislature later passed a civil union law that went into effect February 19 of this year.

Once UPS realized its error the company corrected it. Massachusetts and New Jersey are the exceptions to UPS’ union contracts.

"The only states we offer that for union employees are New Jersey and Massachusetts, because those states recognize same-sex married spouses," said Rasberry.

UPS has 37,682 union employees and 8,228 non-union employees in California, according to Rasberry. She did not know the breakdown of UPS employees for the nine counties that make up the Bay Area. UPS operates 100 locations including stores, customer centers, and drop-boxes in San Francisco alone, according to a search for stores on its Web site.

UPS is systematically negotiating domestic partner and civil union benefits in the collective bargaining agreement with its unions when the contracts are up for renewal, Rasberry said. Due to existing union contracts the company needs to wait until the contracts are up for renewal before they can negotiate coverage for LGBT union employees under new laws.

In 2008, UPS’ Teamsters contract, one of its largest unions, will be renewed, Rasberry said. She told the B.A.R. that UPS is currently in the negotiations with the Teamsters and is actively seeking domestic partnership and civil union benefits for LGBT union employees. Last year, according to Rasberry, the pilots’ union contract was successfully negotiated, reflecting changes in domestic partnerships and civil unions laws and now provides benefits to LGBT union employees and their families.

UPS offers domestic partner and civil union benefits to its non-union management and administrative employees across the United States.

"We were thrilled about improving our score from 80 to 100," said Rasberry. "We are definitely thrilled to be one of the companies that has a perfect 100 score."

Bay Area impact
Forty-six Bay Area companies were included in the report, with eight newcomers in the survey. Esurance Inc., the Internet insurance company started in 1999 in San Francisco and one of the new companies on the index, received a perfect score.

"We are really excited," said Kirstin Brewe, director of brand and public relations for Esurance. "We are really, really excited and honored to be included in this list of companies."

Brewe told the B.A.R. that Esurance has wanted to participate in the survey for years, but didn’t meet the "head count" qualifications that had nothing to do with its LGBT employment policies, according to Brewe, which have been in place since the company started.

"[As] a San Francisco company it’s important for us to be focused on equality and fairness," said Brewe.

Twenty-six Bay Area companies scored 100 on the index. Only two companies received scores below 50. Calpine Corporation, a San Jose-based energy company, dropped 20 points from its score of 63 in 2006 to 48 in 2008, and Redwood City’s DPR Construction, also dropped 20 points from 50 in 2006 to 30 in 2008.

Overall, the Bay Area is doing well, especially in the top two industries that populated the 2008 index: banking and finance and legal firms. HRC noted that 32 of the 195 firms with perfect scores were in the banking and financial industry, the most of any industry. Legal firms followed closely with 30 firms with perfect scores.

Three Bay Area banking and financial firms: Charles Schwab, Wells Fargo, and Visa received a score of 100, while Franklin Templeton Investments in San Mateo dropped 10 points from 60 in 2006 to 50 in 2008.

"This is the fourth year in a row that we’ve received a perfect rating on the Corporate Equality Index, and this outstanding recognition is a testament to our longstanding commitment of creating an inclusive and progressive environment for all our team members," said Lisa Stevens, executive vice president for the San Francisco region for Wells Fargo. "We offer fair and equal policies for LGBT employees, provide great services, and customized financial advice to our diverse customers, and our team members are actively involved in LGBT nonprofit organizations and community programs. We’re proud of our score and will continue to invest in all aspects of diversity for our team members and our customers."

Eight Bay Area legal firms participated in the survey. Bay Area law firms Heller Ehrman, Morrison & Foerster, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman all remained steady in 2008, mirroring their 2006 scores of 100. Four Bay Area legal firms entered the index for the first time this year. All of the new firms received scores above 50: Fenwick & West LLP (90), Gordon & Rees (85), Thelen Reid, Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP (70), and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati (85).

"We are honored and pleased and glad to see that a number of other organizations that have joined the list. As an openly gay man myself, it makes me especially proud," said Keith Wetmore, chair of Morrison & Foerster. "Law firms are a talent driven organization and smart ones adjust to make themselves an appealing career choice for the largest number of people, and there are many talented GLBT candidates."

The Bay Area wouldn’t be complete without the technology industry. Twenty Bay Area high tech companies completed the survey this year. More than half of the companies received scores of 100, including: Yahoo, Adobe Systems, Apple, Cisco Systems, Google, Sun Microsystems, and others.

"Yahoo is committed to being a great place to work and building inclusion to building workplace equality," said Brady Wood, director of product marketing of Yahoo. He founded Yahoo! Pride, the LGBT employee group, in 2005.

Silicon Graphics Inc. dropped 15 points from 65 in 2006 to 50 in 2008. MacAfee Inc. received a score of 53 in its debut in the index.

Influencing ENDA
In a conference call Tuesday, Herrschaft and Allison Herwitt, HRC legislative director, told reporters that the index has been an instrumental political tool for LGBTs and their allies to show politicians that the business world increasingly implements non-discrimination policies.

"The Corporate Equality Index is an excellent tool for us to use on Capitol Hill," said Herwitt. "Especially as we try to move [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] through the House and the Senate ... [to] show Congress that corporate America is moving past Congress on this issue."

According to Herwitt, ENDA, also known as HR2015, will leave the education and employment subcommittee for the floor of the House, where Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) will introduce the bill within the next few weeks. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) will lead the bill on the Senate side.

"I don’t necessarily anticipate that it will hit a wall in the Senate," said Herwitt responding to a reporter’s question. "We are going to have the bill introduced within the coming weeks."

According to HRC, at least 282 cities and towns, and 19 states have added workplace protections for LGBT employees in the public and private sector. More than 93 local jurisdictions and 11 states have laws that protect discrimination based on gender identity.

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com

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