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Some Calumet Region employers get high marks for being LGBT-friendly

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Some large Northwest Indiana employers scored high marks for being LGBT-friendly in a new study.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, recently released its annual Corporate Equality Index for Fortune 1000 companies and major law firms. A record 517 businesses earned a top score of 100 this year.



Eight large employers in the Region were among the 1,043 companies graded, with five receiving perfect scores of 100. The scores are based on non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, responsible citizenship, public commitment to LGBT equality and demonstrated organizational competency around LGBT inclusion.

Nationwide, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found rapid progress in areas like non-discrimination policies for gender identity, transgender-inclusive health care coverage, and supportive inclusion guidelines for transitioning transgender employees.

Unilever, which operates a soap-making factory in Hammond, again scored a perfect 100 in the study.

“Unilever U.S. is honored to be recognized for a ninth straight year by the Human Rights Campaign, and we are extremely proud to uphold our perfect score of 100 percent on the CEI,” said Mike Clementi, Unilever North America vice president of human resources.

“As an organization, we work hard to provide an environment where all employees feel valued, included and bring their personal passions to the workplace. We believe an inclusive workplace is critical to our growth as a company.”

The multinational company that operates the former Lever Brothers plant at 1200 Calumet Ave. near the border of Hammond and Chicago offers employees benefits including gender affirmation surgery, hormone therapy, and equal medical coverage for same-gender partners.

Several Region companies shine

Ford, Lear, Arconic, and Praxair also aced it with scores of 100. Ford operates the Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch and the Chicago Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights; Lear has seat factories in Hammond and Portage; Arconic runs the Alcoa Howmet aerospace casting factory in LaPorte; and Praxair is an industrial gas supplier with extensive local operations in Whiting, East Chicago, Hammond, Portage, Michigan City, Griffith and Hobart. 

"We are proud to have received a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index," Praxair Chief Diversity Officer Vanessa Abrahams-John said. "Having a successful company requires diverse perspectives and an inclusive workplace, and we are proud of our employees who create such a welcoming environment at Praxair."

Lear was the only Tier 1 automotive supplier to get a perfect score, and Ford got a score of 100 for the 12th straight year.

"The diverse backgrounds of our employees truly make us a stronger company, and we are extremely proud of our policies and programs that support equality," Ford Motor Co. Chief Diversity Officer Meeta Huggins said.

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Arconic was just spun off from Alcoa, which has attained a 100 out of 100 for the last eight years.

“At Arconic, we understand that our employees contribute their best when they can bring their whole self, every day, everywhere,” said Vas Nair, executive vice president, human resources environment, health, safety and sustainability. 

Diversity drives success

Merrillville-based NiSource Inc., the parent company of NIPSCO, got a score of 75, which was the fifth highest for any company headquartered in Indiana. It missed out on a perfect score for not offering transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage or firm-wide organizational competency programs, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation report.

"Inclusion and diversity allows NiSource to build a stronger company that respects and values everyone's unique contributions, views and fundamental desire to do good work," communications manager Ken Stammen said.

"Our commitment to inclusion and diversity is more than just the right thing to do. It drives tangible benefits for our customers, our company and all of our stakeholders."

U.S. Steel, which operates mills in Gary, East Chicago and Portage, got a score of only 10 out of 100. The company declined to comment on the report, but pointed out it has several diversity initiatives, including a diversity and inclusion council and a diversity and inclusion department.

"U. S. Steel is committed to attracting, developing, and retaining a workforce of talented, diverse people — all working together in an environment where employees can excel and contribute to high-performance results for all of our stakeholders," spokeswoman Erin M. DiPietro said.

A human rights campaign spokesperson said ArcelorMittal was not ranked this time because it was not listed as a Fortune 1000 company in 2015 and did not ask to participate.

BP, which operates the BP Whiting Refinery, got 85 out of a possible 100. Like NiSource, it lost 10 points for not offering transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage.

“Diversity and inclusion are not only priorities for BP, they are keys to our success. We know that we can accomplish more when people from diverse backgrounds and with different talents and ideas work together toward a common goal," BP U.S. diversity and inclusion manager Tamara Page said.

The company for instance has established business resource groups that aim to promote diversity and inclusion, Page said.

"These groups, which are employee-initiated, represent a wide cross section of our staff, from ethnic minorities, women, LGBT individuals and disabled people to new parents, military veterans, part-time workers, new joiners to BP and long-time employees," Page said.

"They are open to every BP employee and are designed to help build an inclusive culture within the company as well as improve the cultural fluency of BP employees."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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