These Are The Most (And Least) LGBT-Friendly Workplaces In The U.S.

Human Rights Campaign Foundation data show which industries have progressive policies for LGBT workers, and which are woefully behind.

These Are The Most (And Least) LGBT-Friendly Workplaces In The U.S.
[Photo: Flickr user Kevin Hutchinson]

Diversity initiatives are proliferating in corporate America. Intel made headlines earlier this year for publishing the early results of a multipronged effort to include more women and minorities among its ranks. Other companies have followed suit and gone one step further.


Last week, a new global coalition was announced to ensure that workplaces were also inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. Among the founding members: Google, IBM, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Accenture, CA Technologies, Destination Weddings Travel Group, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Replacements, Ltd., and Symantec, many of which landed on DiversityInc’s recent ranking of corporations implementing initiatives that support LGBT employees, not only in their workplace, but by giving to LGBT nonprofits and partnering with certified LGBT vendors.

Yet for all the progress in LGBT rights we are making, gay workers can still be fired because of their sexuality in 29 states, and those who are transgender aren’t protected in 32 states.

So where are the best places to work if you’re part of the LGBT community? The Human Rights Campaign Foundation puts out an annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI) to measure the LGBT equality policies of 950 large U.S. companies. Each one is scored on a scale of 0 to 100, based on criteria such as nondiscrimination policies, equivalent spouse and partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health coverage, and public commitment.

Expert Market, a B2B online marketplace, recently analyzed this data to determine the best and worst states and industries for equality.

10 States With The Most Companies Receiving High Marks For Equality

There were some surprising winners and losers, Expert Market’s brand manager Bobbi Brant tells Fast Company, “For example, 67% of Maryland corporations scored the maximum of 100 points on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which means that they have great, progressive policies, including equal rights for same-sex partners and transgender health care.”

Expert Market ranked these states based on the percentage of companies located in the state that were scored by the CEI and had a minimum of five companies reporting. Companies with high CEI scores are identified as having progressive equality policies.


Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, and California all show great diversity policies across a large number of companies and may be ideal choices for LGBT workers seeking an inclusive corporate workplace, according to the study.

Least Progressive States

At the bottom are 10 states that scored the lowest, three of which had no companies at all that managed to score the maximum 100 on the CEI.

Of them, Colorado is graded the worst, because they have the highest number of companies in the CEI list with no 100 scores. Colorado scored the worst on the survey, Brant observes, because businesses located in the state are falling behind in their equality measures. Texas, which is heavily populated with major corporations, had only six out of 74 companies score 100 on the CEI.

Best and Worst Industries for LGBT Employees

Hospitality ranked as the most progressive industry to work in with an impressive 67% of hotel, resort, and casino companies scoring a perfect 100.

“We can only speculate as to why certain industries appear to be more LGBT-progressive than others,” says Brant. “Typically, industries such as engineering, construction, and oil/gas have been seen as straight, male-dominated areas with little diversity or tolerance. This study shows that this is unfortunately still the case.”

Multiple studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and productive than homogenous groups. The Expert Market survey exposes where sexual inequality still prevails in the workplace.


“Not only will current employees feel more content and motivated if they are supported by company policy, new talent will also be more likely to join a progressive corporation,” according to Expert Market. “Having excellent equality policies in place means that companies could open the doors to masses of talent in the form of LGBT employees.”

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.