Despite advances in workplace protections, gay employees in Pa. still at risk

Employees of the nation’s 500 most profitable companies have to worry less than their counterparts about revealing their sexual orientation.

Nearly all of America’s Fortune 500 companies have policies that disallow job discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to a survey by Philadelphia-based nonprofit Equality Forum.

Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, says those 477 companies represents a 31 percent jump since 2006. Then, 64 percent of Fortune 500 companies protected against sexual orientation discrimination; now, that figure is up to 95 percent.

But Lazin won’t be satisfied until all businesses — Fortune 500 or otherwise — get on board.

“In Pennsylvania, you can be fired simply for being gay,” said Lazin.

The same can be said in 28 other states across the country. New Jersey and Delaware do protect workers against job discrimination due to sexual orientation.

Lazin hopes his nonprofit’s findings will put pressure on lawmakers put those protections on the books nationwide.

“Politicians don’t lead, they follow. And what we’re hoping they do is at long last is follow the Fortune 500,” Lazin said.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and presumptive vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan have all called for sexual orientation protection to be included in the federal workplace nondiscrimination act. Attempts to pass such legislation have failed numerous times since in 1974.

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