A new report from a leading LGBT rights group in the US has revealed that 60 of the Fortune 100 largest businesses prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s State of the Workplace report shows a rapid expansion of protections for LGBT workers in the private sector over the past decade.

35% of the top 500 businesses have gender identity protections.

In 2000, just three of the Fortune 500 businesses had such protections.

85% of the Fortune 500 businesses now have protections based on sexual orientation, compared to 51% in 2000.

“This report shows that the country’s largest and most competitive employers are most likely to have added protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation, setting consistent expectations of equal opportunity for their employees and job applicants regardless of where they work in the United States,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

More than 100 cities and counties now prohibit employment discrimination based on both gender identity and sexual orientation.

12 states and the District of Columbia have protections in place. An additional eight states and 80 cities and counties prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation alone.

Attempts by the US Congress to pass a federal law protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans Americans from workplace discrimination fell apart amid acrimonious claims and counter-claims over trans rights.

In November 2007 the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was passed by the House by 235 to 184.

ENDA was originally designed to make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or promote a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The decision to remove trans people from the scope of the legislation caused anger among the LGBT community in the US, with many demanding an “all or nothing” stance.

Some House Democrats did not want ENDA to include protections for trans people, fearful of a backlash from conservatives.

President Bush indicated he would veto ENDA.

President Barack Obama supports the legislation.

“Millions of people work in cities, counties and states where discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is still legal,” said Mr Solomonese.

“Particularly as so many workers are losing their jobs, no one should have to face the added worry of losing their job simply because of who they are.

“Employers and lawmakers alike should support the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act to establish clear and consistent expectations that workers should be evaluated based on their ability to do their job — and not based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The HRC workplace report reveals that employers have improved benefits to ensure fair treatment of LGBT employees and their families.

Since 2006, a majority of Fortune 500 companies have offered benefits to same-sex partners of employees. Today, 57% — a total of 286 — of the Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits.

Removing discriminatory exclusions for medically necessary, transgender-specific treatment is a rapidly-emerging trend. Eighteen of the Fortune 100 now provide transgender-inclusive health insurance, compared to just one in 2001.