North Carolina has garnered national attention from business leaders for HB2, a bill that preempts cities and counties from enacting non-discrimination ordinances. The bill was in direct response to Charlotte’s city council voting in a new non-discrimination ordinance that protected lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) customers. HB2 opponents argue that this new law doesn’t just hurt LGBT residents, but will also be bad for business. In the days following the bill’s passage, several prominent businesses – including Wells Fargo, Google, and Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte – have spoken out against it. The NBA has threatened to move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to Atlanta, and several mayors and governors across the country have banned government-funded travel to North Carolina while HB2 is law.
But does LGBT-friendliness really impact business? Researchers at the Williams Institute at UCLA conducted a meta-analysis of 36 studies addressing the business impact of LGBT-supportive workplace policies. Such policies can include:
- Explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination policy
- Offering transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage
- Offering benefits that extend to domestic partners, not just spouses
- Supporting organizational competency on LGBT issues
The strongest findings from this meta-analysis were that LGBT-supportive policies foster increased openness about employees’ sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender presentation. That openness means that employees don’t feel pressure to conceal aspects of their life, like relationship status, that heterosexual and cisgender employees typically feel comfortable sharing. And research shows that that openness has a positive impact on employees’ mental health. Conversely, concealment is “associated with greater psychological distress.”
According to national surveys, nearly 40 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers and 90 percent of transgender workers have faced workplace discrimination, harassment, or mistreatment.
LGBT inclusivity also has “fairly strong” links to less workplace discrimination, increased job satisfaction, and greater job commitment. LGBT employees are more loyal and emotionally connected to employers who have supportive policies, and are less likely to look for work elsewhere.
The Williams Institute suggested that LGBT-inclusive policies may impact workplace relationships, health insurance costs, creativity, and stock prices. However, there aren’t enough studies proving these links to be conclusive. Additionally, there aren’t enough studies that show a strong direct effect on businesses’ bottom line, so this is an area that needs more research. However, the positive impacts of LGBT inclusivity are undeniable.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation has corporate and municipal equality indexes that rank businesses and cities based on how LGBT-friendly they are. Even if there’s no current dollar value on promoting LGBT inclusivity, it remains an important and increasingly visible factor.
 Badgett, M.V. Lee; Durso, Laura E.; Kastanis, Angeliki; and Mallory, Christy. (May 2013). The Business Impact of LGBT-Supportive Workplace Policies. The Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles. Available at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Business-Impact-LGBT-Policies-Full-Report-May-2013.pdf
 See note 1
 Burns, Crosby and Krehely, Jeff. (June 2 2011). “Gay and Transgender People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment.” The Center for American Progress. Available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2011/06/02/9872/gay-and-transgender-people-face-high-rates-of-workplace-discrimination-and-harassment/
 See note 1