Editors' note: Dr. Jillian T. Weiss is an Associate Professor of Law and Society at Ramapo College and is the author of Transgender Workplace Diversity, a resource for HR professionals on how to support transgender employees. She blogs regularly about legal and policy issues facing transgender workers.
The annual Corporate Equality Index, a diversity index that rates companies on their treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers, is now out for 2009. The Index shows that transgender workers have made major gains since the Index was first published in 2002, moving from employment protections provided by only 5% of rated businesses, to 66% of CEI-rated employers providing employment protections on the basis of gender identity.
Most significant overall, this year's index shows an unprecedented 259 major U.S. businesses earning the top rating of 100 percent, which requires, among other things, that they have transgender-inclusive diversity policies and benefits.
Interestingly, the results of a Harris poll on public support for gender identity employment protections came out a few days ago, in which 71% of Americans agreed that transgender employees should be judged by job performance, rather than gender identity Progress on this issue can be seen by comparing with polls by HRC in 2002, showing 61% support in 2002 and 66% support in 2005.
While the Human Rights Campaign is controversial within the GLBT community for its stand on the exclusion of gender identity from the federal ENDA legislation, the Corporate Equality Index is put out by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a separate arm of the organization that has been a strong advocate of creating protections for transgender employees.
It is important to note that, while the increase in protections is laudable, these do not mean that transgender discrimination has disappeared at these organizations. Anecdotal evidence of transgender discrimination suggests that there is often a significant gap between policy on the books and policy in action.
This year, the CEI measures three items with regard to transgender employees, accounting for 25 out of 100 points: 1) an EEO policy covering gender identity or expression, 2) gender identity diversity training or supportive gender transition guidelines, and 3) one transgender-inclusive insurance benefit (one of the following: mental health counseling, hormone therapy, lab procedures, medically necessary surgical procedures such as hysterectomy or short-term disability leave for surgical procedures).
This year's 66% percentage of businesses with employment protections based on gender identity is higher than the 58% percent last year, 46% in 2006 and 29% in 2005.
Other figures: 72% of this year's rated businesses have written gender transition guidelines or cover "gender identity" as a topic of diversity training, up from 68% last year and 59% the year before. A total of 115 employers have transition guidelines, up from 90 employers the year before, and 65 from the year before. 435 businesses offer at least one transgender-inclusive health benefits, up from 407 last year.
Interestingly, the report notes that two companies opposed shareholder resolutions to amend their non-discrimination policies to include gender identity: Verizon Communications Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Note to self: switch to AT&T and Target)
The report contains a good discussion of transgender inclusive benefits. It notes that most transgender people are categorically denied health insurance coverage for necessary medical treatment, often irrespective of whether treatment is related to sex reassignment. It also discusses the history of organizations that have removed transgender access exclusions from their employee health plans, specifically dispelling the myth that transgender health benefits are too expensive. It also discusses insurance options for companies. Interestingly, 12% of the companies provide health benefits for surgical procedures.
The discussion on page 17 suggests that there may be changes in future Indexes regarding points awarded for transgender benefits. A top research goal of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is to issue a more detailed report of the types of coverage generally available at these employers, as well as identified best and worst practices of such plans.
If you are interested in some historical analysis, here is my discussion of the 2008 CEI, which showed a surprising rise in the transgender wellness benefits.
Here are my discussions of the 2006 CEI, which review the rise of transgender workplace policies since 1997 and changes in the transgender wellness benefit.