Guest Blogger

HRC: Corporate Equality 3.0

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 03, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: CEI, Corporate Equality Index, employment protections, HRC, transgender, workplace equality

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Samir Luther is an expert on employment non-discrimination policies and benefits for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers in the United States. In his capacity with the HRC Workplace Project, he works with employers to develop and implement model practices as well as set standards and benchmarks for the project's annual Corporate Equality Index report.

samirluther.jpgThe HRC Foundation's Corporate Equality Index has been the subject of much debate since it was first released in 2002. I'm proud to announce new criteria today - criteria 3.0 - that will be effective beginning June 2011 and will take the CEI and its participants to a more holistic level of LGBT workplace inclusion in the U.S.

The two most significant changes are to employee benefits. Most employers will have to start working on these changes now if they're going to meet them in time for the June 2011 survey deadline:

  • Fully equivalent spousal and partner benefits, including recognition of state-registered relationships. In this day and age, there's no need for same-sex spouses to have to complete burdensome domestic partnership affidavits to qualify for benefits, and all the benefits should be the same, to the extent possible under federal law.
  • Health insurance with no discriminatory transgender exclusions and recognition of the WPATH Standards of Care. No one should have medically necessary treatment denied and, as of this past summer, even the AMA is calling upon health insurers to cover treatment as recommended by a physician. We credited 49 employers in the last CEI report for removing transgender exclusions, but the WPATH piece is an additional safeguard against more restrictive plans in terms of what's covered. We've seen tremendous progress in transgender health insurance in the last few years, but this standard will help ensure that when these criteria become effective two years from now, they still have teeth. And we'll be conducting a thorough review of inclusive plans to provide comprehensive recommendations to employers this Fall.

In addition, we all know that LGBT workers' experiences at employers that earn 100% aren't always perfect, and that 100% businesses have very different ways of publicly supporting the LGBT community:

  • To ensure that the policies and benefits the CEI calls for are coupled with competent management, we've enhanced our diversity training and competency requirements, and are pushing employers to ask optional and confidential LGBT identification questions in anonymous employee engagement surveys or as part of other optional demographic questions used for employee retention purposes.
  • Lastly, recognizing that employers have come up with endless unique ways of supporting the broader LGBT community, we've expanded our requirements for external engagement. Businesses will have to demonstrate at least three types of LGBT-specific engagement such as recruitment efforts, supplier diversity programs, marketing or advertising, philanthropic support or public support for LGBT equality under the law. The end result, we hope, is that businesses will work harder to employ LGBT workers and suppliers, to continue to positively engage the hefty LGBT consumer market, to support our LGBT organizations with needed operating and programmatic resources and to speak out in support of equal rights for LGBT workers and their families.

And there you have it. (It's amazing how simple it looks when boiled down to four bullet points - you really should read our roadmap to the 3.0 changes)

589 employers were rated this past year - certainly, some are better prepared than others to meet the new criteria, and a few will even achieve them in advance of 2011 - we will honor these employers where we can. But we fully expect many employers with state-regulated insurance plans will be challenged on the insurance pieces, and employers in states without inclusive employment law may face concerns over the self-identification questions.

We can be sure, though, that these challenges are surmountable. We have done everything we can think of to prepare employers for these changes, and are rolling out an extensive education plan to ensure they are equipped to meet all of the criteria.

These changes are truly exciting to me, but I know many Bilerico readers have expressed concerns and disappointment over the specifics of the CEI criteria and the time we have taken to increase our standards.

We've been listening. We've actively sought input since we began in 2002 at conferences (like Out & Equal, Out for Work, Reaching Out MBA and Lavender Law), through our Business Council members and with many of you one-on-one. Furthermore, employees and family members call and e-mail us when they have problems with employers rated on the CEI, whether a low or a high rating - we have taken that feedback to heart and called employers to task when we find discrepancies.

The Workplace Project team at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is a nimble operation of four and a half employees (plus an intern), but I can't imagine having a team more dedicated and committed to getting the criteria - and the individual employer ratings - right.

We can't measure everything in corporate America, in part because employers don't like filling out surveys (especially ones that require lots of number-crunching or specific data pulls) but also because we can only pore over so many surveys at a time. Nonetheless, we have added requirements this past year for documentation in order for an employer to be noted as having transgender-inclusive benefits. That helped us provide the most accurate information we've been able to provide thus far, and shaped the new standard we'll be holding employers accountable to for transgender-inclusive insurance.

We have our work cut out for us and, like always, we'll need everyone's help to make sure that employers stay in the game and make it to 100 percent in 2011 - the more, the better. Please, check out the resources on our website, and let us know what else we can provide to make these changes happen as quickly as possible.

You can download an FAQ of the upcoming changes here.


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Thanks for letting me post here, Bil. I look forward to hearing people's thoughts!

Samir,

I applaud the changes made to the CEI. While much of the focus and attention will be paid to the transgender components, I especially applaud the greater accountability for training, the leeway to recognize external issues like funding of anti-gay initiatives, and the diversity metrics.

I hope that criteria 4.0 will be able to take the diversity metrics a step further. In addition to being required to collect anonymous climate surveys and/or self-identification data, the company is also required to publicly publish the results and demonstrate commitment to improving any evidence of disparity. I don't see any evidence in the report that any action will be required beyond administering these diversity metrics, but I think it is an important step even without follow-up.

Congratulations on improving the CEI is such profound ways.

Jere -- thanks so much for the encouragement and suggestions, and good to hear from you again!

We're definitely interested in looking at ways to give this more teeth in the future, and your suggestions are helpful. I just wrote a response to Rebecca Juro below that I think addresses what you're getting at, too.

You're more than welcome, Samir. I'm glad to see you on the site instead of just Facebook!

I applaud the work that you and the team have put into this. Our conversation earlier today about CEI and our chats online have really proven to me that you do have the best interests of the entire LGBT community at heart.

I know how hard you've worked to make these changes in the CEI and I salute you for it. Thanks for listening to the criticism and working to make the CEI even better.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | March 3, 2009 3:28 PM

Samir,

These changes to CEI is a wonderful step forward. As Daryl Herrschaft pointed out in his conversation with Bil, CEI is one way to measure a company's support for LGBT people.

The educational work that you and the other members of the Workplace Project team have undertaken is immensely valuable in terms of building workplaces where LGBT employees can feel comfortable.

There will be some push back because there always is, but these developments are a welcomed sign of HRC's continuing efforts on issues of gender identity and expression.

Meghan Stabler | March 3, 2009 3:34 PM

Michael,

thank you for recognizing the value of the work. this is such a small team, but a team of great talent. raising the bar on the CEI was much needed, and with this release we set the bar to a new level for many things, but specifically for transgender related coverage, inclusion and equality.

Meghan

This is fantastic news- and will help tons in pushing this work forward. we're doing similar stuff in the labor movement with union contracts... this will help alot.

great work samir.

"June, 2011?" I needed a medically necessary surgery LAST YEAR at this time - and still do - but my stupid 100% company has their medical heads up their asses. I'll probably be dead by 2011. Other transgender people sooner. Don't break your arms patting yourselves on the back. This should have been done FIVE YEARS AGO!

Typical HRC attitude of not caring when transgender people die, just as long as their image remains intact . . . such as it is.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | March 3, 2009 4:39 PM

Monica,

You can't hold HRC accountable for action, or in this case inaction, of your insurance company.

To say that HRC doesn't care when transgender people die, is the kind of hyperbolic statement that leaves people scratching their heads.

The CEI measures how top companies are treating their LGBT employees. We've asked for HRC to strengthen the criteria around transgender issues and they have announced their plan for doing that.

This is an important step towards helping corporations enact better policies for LGBT employees.

Monica, it has taken several years for to get to where we are today. But know that HRC wasn't sitting idly and that we weren't making these changes in a vacuum -- input comes from the Business Council, individuals in the community, corporations, other LGBT organizations, workplace advocates and conferences like Out & Equal. I think it's safe to say that all LGBT workplace advocates would love to have trans-inclusive health insurance everywhere yesterday.

When the CEI started back in 2002, only IBM (of the F500) offered transgender-inclusive health insurance. Since 2002, we (and many other transgender insurance/health advocates) have worked constantly with employers to educate them about the insurance discrimination, enact transgender-inclusive benefits (including these 49 from last year's report), and to make sure that any requirements in the CEI would actually be effective – meaning that (1) employers would make their insurance inclusive, and (2) transgender people would be generally happy with their health insurance (well, at least to the same extent that anyone else can be happy with their health insurance these days).

The CEI is HRC's way of getting employers to do the right thing. Many employers will in fact be able to make these changes more quickly than June 2011 -- we are already working with several employers to do this now. But (even putting economic times aside) these changes will require substantial negotiations between employers and their health insurers (in many cases, even if the employer is self-insured -- insurance companies typically still administer these plans).

On the other side, the CEI has always depended upon people *within* these businesses (LGBT people and allies) to work with internal business leaders and to make the business and (more importantly) the human case for these policies. We're going to do everything we can to empower LGBT workers to advance these changes with their employers.

Monica, now that we have these new criteria, please let me know how I can make our resources more helpful for you, or if there are people with whom we can work directly at your business to make these benefits happen as soon as possible.

...

If other people are interested in the history of how we've included trans-inclusive health insurance in the CEI, here's some more information: www.hrc.org/issues/12215.htm

I can certainly say that it can take time. I get my insurance through my partner's union, and they had assumed they had inclusive insurance. When I discovered (the hard way, I might add) that they didn't, they were enthusiastic to change it. Still, it took almost a year and a half for them to do so.

I'm very sympathetic to the 2-year delayed implementation, and even if it won't change their score now, this announcement will start having an impact on companies now -- because they know that if they want to keep their high score they'll have to start acting now. I certainly must congratulate you on making this happen, I can see it making a huge impact for a lot of people.

That said, I also can see and feel the frustration of how slowly this has been moving. While I don't expect perfection on day one, the timeline you site shows how the whole history of the CEI has been excruciatingly slow to include the needs of trans people.

Why did it take 4 years before any mention of trans health benefits? Why was the 1-in-5 system adopted -- even as this timeline acknowledges that makes it impossible to get an accurate representation? Why did it take two years before documentation was required to prove benefits existed? I remember being one of many people complaining about it back in 2006. Why did it take three years for those complaints to be acted upon? I don't expect implementation to take less then two years, but I'm still a bit miffed that implementation is beginning now and not back in 2006 (or even 2002).

Samir,
You had two very good trans people helping you and HRC to make the right choices FIVE YEARS ago and HRC ignored their recommendations. Both of those people are good friends of mine, so I know directly from them.

My company did the minimum they could get away with, then bragged about their useless 100% on the company's internal web site. This was after I was turned down for the surgery, so you can imagine how pissed I was.

100% means they will do everything for gays and lesbians, but screw transgender people. They make their policies towards their trans employees based on how little they can get away with to get the 100%, so it isn't the insurance company. My company tells the insurance company what to cover and what not to cover.

So, the CEI is the center of MY medical problems. You aren't talking to a neophyte. I've been with this company for 19 years, 11.5 as Monica and got them to add gender identity in their EEO policy. I know for absolute fact that if you listened to Donna and Jamison 5 years ago, I wouldn't be in this fix. The company's LGBt employee group would have had a conniption fit if they didn't get 100%. They didn't have to because of your useless CEI policy gave them what they wanted at my expense.

So, don't give me your lame excuses and tell me about all the people who worked on this. In my opinion, I'm more pissed off about the crappy CEI then I am about HRC supporting a gay-only ENDA, because my actual life is on the line.

Phil Attey | March 3, 2009 5:13 PM

Sumir -

Few of the projects in our community benefit the average LGBT person as much as the work you're doing with the HRC Workplace Equality Project.

Thank you for keeping us posted on the policy changes and for your work in making it easier for LGBT Americans to work in safer, healthier and more open workplaces.

Keep up the great work!

+ Phil

The efforts of Samir, Daryl, Deena, and others at the HRC Foundation Workplace Project team should be commended. They are the ones who make me want to support HRC because they ARE transgender supportive. It is the efforts by the other side of that organization (not Foundation) by Joe, et. al. that stop me from supporting them physically, monetarily, etc.

I would be more than willing to support the HRC Foundation IF I could be 100% certain the political side would not get so much as one red cent. The latter could care less about TG representation and issues despite claims of being "inclusive" - until they want us to open our wallets. That's when we hear the same old promises and such; they will do anything for our dollars. But what do we get in return? NOTHING. The ENDA debacke of late 2007 is still way too fresh in TG minds for us to trust HRC to support us in legislation for a long, long time.

Samir, I would like to know what weight actual on the job experiences of LGBT people, as opposed to simply the presence of various benefits, play in the ratings of the CEI.

I worked for a company, Best Buy, that has a 100% rating, but I'm no longer there. What I and many experience on the job, and I imagine this is probably more true in blue collar or lower-level white jobs, is a definite glass ceiling that prevents those deemed too different from rising above a certain level. Those who challenge that, as I did, are soon eliminated. My experience with Best Buy was not a good one in terms of being treated equally and fairly, but it had nothing to do with the type and quality of benefits the company offers.

Benefits are extremely important, but in the end it's the actual on the job experience LGBT employees experience that can be most important in creating a truly discrimination-free workplace. Perhaps if ground-level experiences were included in the ratings, we'd see more effort made on the part of some these companies to ensure that discrimination policies enacted at the upper corporate level actually have a real impact on how company business is done on a day-to-day basis on the lower levels.

Thanks for asking, Rebecca -- these are definitely some of the things that we have been paying close attention to in the criteria.

We've acknowledged in the report itself that a CEI rating can't be a singular measure of LGBT inclusion in the workplace, and we've always welcomed LGBT employees to come forward with their stories if they find discrepancies between what employers report. But with the new criteria we've tried to delve deeper into the key issues that affect workplace climate for LGBT people.

These are summed up by our 3rd category of criteria, "Organizational LGBT Competency," where we ask for
* two or more training, resources or accountability measures, which includes the option of "Senior management/executive performance measures include LGBT diversity metrics" (go two bullets down for more info...)
* an employee resource group or firm-wide diversity council and
* engagement and diversity metrics, which includes either the option of "Anonymous employee engagement or climate surveys conducted on an annual or biennial basis" or "Data collection forms that collect employee race, ethnicity, gender, military and disability status – typically recorded as part of employee records with strong privacy and confidentiality safeguards."

A business may implement a policy at the top, but does it translate to middle managers? The options I've called out above we hope will demand awareness of these real experiences within businesses (and we'll definitely highlight any best practices that emerge, particularly if employers are tying these metrics to senior executive performance assessments), but they also lay some groundwork for us to explore what you're talking about more in the future.

In 2005, Bank of America asked a question about LGBT identity in its engagement survey, and it caused a bit of an uproar at the time (see SFChronicle article -- please note that we wouldn't want to see a question that presents sexual orientation and gender identity as conflicting choices -- we're working with a group of LGBT employees and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates on a best practices document that will be released in the coming months).

I think the challenge we would find with getting the kind of feedback you're talking about is that the employees who would have the kind of experiences you're describing may not be comfortable disclosing their LGBT identity. I think a lot of people may at first feel some discomfort if they're asked about their gender identity or sexual orientation on something that their employer has any involvement with (even if it was a third-party LGBT organization administering the survey). But employers have demonstrated that they can build trust with and positively use these tools to improve workplace climate for LGBT people over time (again, look for the best practices report soon).

But on the other side of the equation, we face the practical challenges that (1) there's some gray area around how to handle harassment or discriminatory behavior that comes up in a survey like this (again, look for the best practices report soon) and (2) employers themselves are extremely reluctant to participate in any survey (let alone surveys of individual employees), particularly on top of existing internal engagement surveys or the much broader Fortune Best Places to Work -- and they're being asked to fill out more surveys every year. We need employers to continue to institute inclusive policies and speak up for LGBT equality under the law.

All that said, since early 2008 we've been engaged in some critical research to examine opportunities to improve workplace climate for LGBT people. We're not quite ready to release the results of this research, but I can tell you that it will have a profound impact on how we at the HRC Foundation will approach workplace advocacy moving forward.

I hope that's helpful, Rebecca. I'd be happy to discuss this with you further, and I'd especially love to hear your thoughts on the two pieces of work that we'll be releasing soon (self-identification & workplace climate). Don't hesitate to e-mail whenever you need to.

Samir,

Thanks, it does explain a lot. Now that I understand why getting ground-level on-the-job experiences is so difficult, I do have some ideas in that regard. I have no idea if this is viable or not, but for whatever it's worth:

Create a site and/or a survey that does not require a participant identify themselves personally or with any personally identifiable information. Participants would only identify the company they work for, the department and/or level they work at, and be able to describe their experience as an LGBT person at that employer.

By keeping participation strictly anonymous, I believe you'd be much better able to encourage those who are closeted or partially closeted to share their experiences honestly and publicly.

In addition, to help ensure participation across the LGBT community, keep HRC's name out of it. Use a private company to conduct the survey, name it generically, and offer no information that would lead any participant to discover that HRC has anything to do with it. The reality we all know is that HRC's political arm has discredited the HRC brand so completely among the rank-and-file LGBT community it's the only way you'd have a hope of getting enough LGBT's and particularly transpeople to be comfortable sharing their experiences.

Use HRC's media machine as well as traditional community media to get the word out and promote the site/survey without linking it to the organization. I have no doubt this could be easily done given HRC's resources, if HRC's leadership were truly willing to eschew credit in order to ensure a viable and useful sampling of responses.

Above all, be honest and up-front about all that's learned from the survey. Don't hide or delay the release of any information collected or conclusions drawn from the information as HRC has so often done in the past with its surveys on political issues. Once the information is public, HRC can then use that information, just like any other interested organization, in the CEI or any other publications the org may release.

Yes, it would be expensive, and HRC's leadership would have to be willing to give up a promotional opportunity in order to ensure success and a truly useful sampling. I don't really know how realistic a hope that is, but if HRC really wants the most complete information possible, it's what I believe will have to be done. I guess it all really boils down to what HRC's true goals are here and how far they're willing to go in order to see them realized.

While I'm sure you've considered much of this before, I hope this gives you some useful ideas on how you might get the most accurate picture possible of the reality of ground-level on-the-job experiences for LGBT people, particularly of those at the lower and middle levels.

On a personal note, it's nice to see that the deceptive practices and unwillingness of HRC's political arm to interact openly and honestly with the rest of the community don't extend to the Business Council. Perhaps if Joe and Co. followed your example, we'd all be a lot better off and more prepared to face the challenges that await us all in the future.

Thanks for listening.

Everyday Transperson | March 4, 2009 12:27 PM

Mr. Luther,

A few points to raise if I may.............

You appear to be very receptive to e-mails and employee "stories" here, but please tell everyone about that airline employee who had e-mailed you a few years ago with great concerns about the very same issues that Ms. Juro mentioned above. To my knowledge, that employee has yet to recieve a reply from you........Oops I'm sorry, that company was also a 100 % rated company, not to mention a "platinum sponsor" of your organization. And what another strange coincidence, that one of the GLBT sales and marketing people sits on your "Business Advisory Council", the very council that you claim you receive direct input from and whom you rely on to "internally" get things done at corporations. By the way, how many non-corporate GLBT people sit on that council........I didn't think so.

Well if your "internal" people were putting their money where their mouths were and doing their jobs of protecting GLBT rights at their companies rather than royally screwing over those GLBT employees who they perceived to be a "threat" to their opportunistic promotions a ego-laden images, then we wouldn't be having this discussion now would we ???

The problem is that little corporate "GL" boys and girls ONLY club taking it upon yourselves to run the whole show and dictating to the rest of us GLBT folks in our workplaces how we are supposed to go about our lives and how we "should" be systematically treated based on YOUR corporate opinions (aka "Best Practices")

As far as I'm concerned, HRC's intrusion into our worklaces and you all on the "Business Council" self-proclaiming yourselves as "experts" just because perhaps you knew the right corporate people to grease palms with or might have attended a SHRM seminar, has caused many GLBT employees to become disenfranchised at their jobs. As you can see above, many employees and former employees of "100%" corporations have been discriminated against and have even had to leave due to unacceptable treatment while the corporate "GL" folks live it up at Black Tie each year strutting their feathers and getting their picture in the media like they were God's gift to GLBT employees, just because they greased HRC's palms and made "effortless philanthropy" deals to protect THEIR own self interest and the self interest of the corporate run GLBT Employee Resource Groups. Oops I forgot, you forgot to mention that everyday GLBT employees and especially trans employees are EXCLUDED from serving as leaders of those ERGs if they disagree with the corporate and the HRC "status quo"........

So Mr. Luther, where were you a few years ago on this issue ?? You all at HRC appeared to be too busy securing your corporate "sponsors" than looking out for the best interest of the "broader" GLBT community.

You want to benefit GLBT employees in the workplace ??? Then stop the corporate lobbying and the discrimination of everyday GLBT non-corporate employees who have the greatest contribution to make concerning internal policy changes !! Lastly, you all need to rethink your popular strategy of forming sweeping overgeneralizations of ALL GLBT employees in the workplace as is obviously portrayed in your "Best Practices" agenda.

Helping the community now ??? Sorry, I don't buy it............ I just think it is HRC's (and yours Mr. Luther) way of subtly admitting that you all royally screwed up and are trying to make amends now to pick up the pieces that have been made.......... and I might add at the expense of non-corporate GLBT employees.

Please remember this comment the next time you may receive a free travel voucher or corporate "perk" from your beloved "platinum sponsor" airline.

Thank you for your time.

Meghan Stabler | March 5, 2009 10:26 AM

Brandi

The "teeth" as you put it are in there. The CEI is moving forward with the criteria and requirements that must be met.

Meghan

one question for you:
When you post you represent yourself as if your comments are from and approved by EQ VA - is this true? Do you represent EQ VA on your posts?

Ed Note: This comment has been deleted for Terms of Service violation. Advocating violence against anyone is completely unacceptable. Ever.

My apologies.

I meant to say "tinkle" on your grave. Saying "piss" was very unladylike.

As far as the rest, I want a pony, too. But we both know that all this ain't gonna happen, now don't we? So, your silencing has a very differential effect. When you try to "play fair" with a bully and a victim, you end up empowering the bully. But then again, that has always been your intent, hasn't it?

If trans women had that kind of social power, there would be no need to advocate giving the HRC their just desserts, now would there?

Jay Stewart | March 25, 2009 12:51 PM

I guess I better watch what I say or someone will call the authorities on me. Will I get the cops called me for criticizing you? I guess you have no respect for freedom of speech.