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The Unum building is seen from the Republic Centre building Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Republic Centre is the tallest building in Chattanooga.

Two of Chattanooga's biggest companies are among only seven businesses in Tennessee to earn top grades for promoting inclusive policies and practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workers.

Unum Corp., the world's biggest disability insurer, and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's biggest health insurer, each earned top scores of 100 from the Human Right Campaign Foundation in the group's annual assessment of U.S. businesses.

In the most rigorous assessment of LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies and practices to date, a record 680 companies have been designated a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the HRC Foundation for their efforts in satisfying all of the criteria studied, earning them a 100% rating. Both Unum and BlueCross have established employee resource groups to aid minorities, women, gay workers and others at their work sites.

"The HRC benchmark evolves annually, which helps us measure our efforts against national best practices," said Lee Reece, promotions and events consultant and the U.S. lead for Unum's LGBTQ+ employee resource group. "We're on an important journey to make sure our workforce is inclusive and supportive of all, and represents the diversity of our customers."

In addition to the employee support groups, Unum also has added domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples and health care coverage for procedures related to gender transition and established equal opportunity employment and anti-harassment policies, company spokeswoman Kelly Spencer said.

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The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee campus on Cameron Hill in Chattanooga.

At BlueCross, Robert Thomas said he was attracted to BlueCross in Chattanooga from Detroit six years ago and was eager to work at what he heard was an inclusive work environment.

"There's always room for growth in every company, but I've found BlueCross to definitely be a welcoming and inclusive employer and we work to encourage that culture to help promote the talent in all people," said Thomas, a workforce management analyst in the pharmacy benefits group at BlueCross who works on the LGBTQ employee resource group. "When you open yourself up to make sure you are welcoming and inclusive, you open the business for more creative and educated minds and talent."

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Council, said companies recognized in the Equality Index rating with top scores demonstrate their willingness and active effort to tap the talent of all people. Both Unum and BlueCross also had top scores last year in the HRC Equality Index.

"These companies know that protecting their LGBTQ employees and customers from discrimination is not just the right thing to do, it is also the best business decision," David said. "In addition, many of these leaders are also advocating for the LGBTQ community and equality under the law in the public square."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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