Target, Best Buy and 3M Lose Gay Rights Group's Top Rating

Retailers Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY) along with conglomerate 3M (MMM) have lost their top rankings in an index compiled by an influential gay-rights group after the companies made significant campaign donations to an organization that backs the election of an anti-gay candidate for governor of Minnesota.

The three corporations, all based in Minnesota, each lost 15 points from otherwise perfect "100" scores on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index after they failed to "respond to requests to take corrective actions following sizable contributions to MN Forward," a political-action committee supporting the election of Republican candidate Tom Emmer, HRC said Monday in a statement.

Target donated $150,000 to the group, while Best Buy and 3M each gave $100,000, according to documents obtained by MinnPost, a nonprofit online news organization. In August, Target rejected two proposals by HRC to donate money to gay-rights organizations to offset the earlier $150,000 donation to to MN Forward.

HRC doesn't normally include a company's political contributions as part of the scoring criteria in the Corporate Equality Index, a measure of gay-friendly employment policies. But the companies' lack of "corrective action" caused a huge outcry in the LGBT community, said HRC spokesman Fred Sainz in an email.

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"We thought that it would be a total disconnect if these three companies were not penalized for their not taking corrective action," Sainz said.

HRC said the 2011 edition of the index includes 844 companies, the most in the index's nine-year history. For the first time, the index rates all Fortune 500 companies on their workplace practices, including companies that didn't voluntarily participate.

Several high-profile companies failed to respond to HRC's invitation to be rated, the group said. They include Pottery Barn and West Elm, each part of Williams-Sonoma (WSM); Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY); Tyson Foods (TSN); News Corp. (NWS), owner of Fox News and HarperCollins Publishers; and several others.

The annual survey examines more than 30 specific policies and practices governing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, including nondiscrimination protection and training in domestic partnership, legal dependent benefits, gender transition guidelines and LGBT employee resource groups.

Among highlights of this year's survey, HRC noted the following:

  • Corporate America protects LGBT workers from discrimination and provides benefits in ways that the government doesn't. While only 29% of the U.S. population lives in states with statewide non-discrimination statutes that specify sexual orientation and gender identity, 99% of Corporate Equality Index-rated companies include sexual orientation and 76% include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies. In 2002, only 5% of companies included gender identity among their non-discrimination policies.

  • In 2004, only 3% of Corporate Equality Index-rated companies addressed transgender health with limited benefit offerings. Today, 79% of rated companies provide this limited coverage and 85 companies specifically offer at least one health care plan option to all employees that covers many medically necessary transition-related treatment including hormone therapies and sexual affirmation surgeries.

  • In 2002, 70% of Corporate Equality Index-rated companies provided domestic partnership health-care benefits. Today, 95% of rated companies provide that coverage.