The Human Rights Campaign Foundation today released the sixth annual Corporate Equality Index showing an unprecedented 195 major U.S. businesses earned the top rating of 100 percent, up from 138 last year – a 41 percent increase.

The Index is used by the LGBT rights organisation to rate employers on a scale from 0 to 100 percent on their treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, consumers and investors.

The 195 businesses that met all of the criteria employ more than

8.3 million workers.

When the Index was first released in 2002 only 13 companies, employing 690,000 workers, received the top rating.

“More businesses than ever before have recognised the value of a

diverse and dedicated workforce,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

“More importantly, these employers understand that discrimination against GLBT workers will ultimately hurt their ability to compete in the global marketplace.”

“Yahoo! is proud to be part of HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and to be in the company of a pioneering group that has stepped up to create a more inclusive work environment for today’s diverse employee groups,” said Cammie Dunaway, chief marketing officer and executive sponsor of the LGBT employee group at Yahoo!.

“We’re committed to making Yahoo! a great place to work and remain focused on offering progressive employment policies and benefits while recruiting the best talent from all backgrounds.”

The movement in corporate America toward equality in the workplace has prompted a coalition of corporations and civil rights groups to form the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness aimed at leveling the playing field by enacting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

ENDA – which is scheduled to be considered by the full U.S. House of Representatives later this month – would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“In the next few weeks, Congress will vote on federal legislation that U.S. employers have already overwhelmingly embraced,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “It’s the right thing to do for our economy and for our country.”

Today, at least 282 cities and towns, and 19 states, across the US have added workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in both public and private sector jobs.

The Corporate Equality Index, which this year rates 519 businesses,

measures the extent to which employers protect their GLBT employees.

Ratings are based on factors like non-discrimination policies, diversity training and benefits for domestic partners and transgender employees.

Among the findings of this year’s report:

The banking and financial services industry has 32 companies with 100 percent, more than any other industry. While there are 30 law firms with the top rating, up from 12 last year.

Three sectors saw their first company achieve a top rating.

In mail and freight delivery, United Parcel Service achieved

100 percent. In contrast, FedEx received a 55 and does not provide benefits for domestic partners firm-wide, including to married same-sex couples in Massachusetts.

“We understand that policies that support inclusion and diversity are critical for us to be successful and we are honoured to be recognised with a perfect score on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index,” said Mike Eskew, UPS chairman and CEO.

In the transportation and travel services industry Travelport, known

for its travel sites such as Orbitz.com is the first to receive a

perfect score.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. is the first gaming industry

company to achieve 100 percent.

For the first time, a majority of rated firms – 58 percent – provide

employment protections on the basis of gender identity.

In the UK gay equality organisation Stonewall released an annual Workplace Index which lists the top employers for gay people.

To qualify as one of the 100 best UK employers, bosses had to demonstrate significantly higher standards of good practice in a wide range of areas.

Companies and organisations are asked a series of questions covering nine policy and practice areas and then awarded a percentage score.

Top of the 2007 list is IBM, with 95%.