Companies that celebrate diversity among their employees must consider diversity of gender identity and sexual orientation, too.

In June 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBTQ employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation. The ruling was and is a big deal, as more than half of all US states have few or no LGBTQ protections. As many as 27 have none at all on the state level.

Still, not being fired because of sexual orientation is the bare minimum of protection. There are other issues, including clear nondiscrimination and harassment policies and LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare and family leave policies.

“Oftentimes [businesses will] start at the hiring process when we’re talking about recruiting diverse talent, but the reality is that it has to start before that,” said Sarah McBride, former national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and now a Delaware state senator, in an interview with Technical.ly in March 2020. “You can’t go out into the world and recruit diverse talent if you haven’t already taken the internal steps to ensure that they will have the policies, benefits and practices that they need to not just come to work, but to thrive at work”

The HRC releases an annual Corporate Equality Index, considered the national benchmarking tool measuring policies, practices and benefits pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees.

The HRC’s workplace standards set forth in the Corporate Equality Index, which celebrates 20 years this year, are not legal requirements that most companies are required to follow, but they can have an impact on hiring, and even the bottom line. Companies that have scored 100% every year for the last 20 years include Apple, JPMorgan Chase and Nike, and more than half (258) of 2022’s Fortune 500 companies have 100% ratings, including 15 of the top 20.

While this index focuses on the large corporations that employ a major segment of the US workforce, any business can implement LGBTQ equality standards, even if it’s a small business that doesn’t have a department for diversity and inclusion.

Where to start? Here are a few tips and resources: