HRC will announce changes to their annual Corporate Equality Index that will take effect in the 2012 report (which comes out in September of 2011). One of the largest changes will center around transgender health care.
At a conference call this morning with Pam Spaulding, Marti Abernathey and me, HRC staffers Daryl Herrschaft, Meghan Stabler, Trevor Thomas and Samir Luther detailed the upcoming changes. From a press release HRC will send out this afternoon:
The most significant change relates to access to health insurance for transgender employees. The new criteria will require that all employees have access to one insurance plan that contains no exclusions for transgender-specific care and recognizes internationally-accepted medical standards of care. The current criteria, announced in 2004 and implemented in 2006, require insurance plans to cover at least one out of five categories of treatment and were designed to educate employers and their insurance carriers about the insurance needs of transgender people. Employers have been required to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity to achieve a 100 percent rating since the CEI began in 2002.
Other changes include parity for same-sex couples around issues like health insurance and bereavement leave, LGBT-owned suppliers, diversity trainings, and external engagement in LGBT issues like opposing marriage amendments or supporting a fully-inclusive ENDA.
Samir Luther will be guest posting today about the extent of the changes to the CEI and will cover the transgender changes in detail. My questions on the call dealt more with an issue we see crop up often on Bilerico Project.
Will human rights abuses against LGBT people in foreign countries by multi-national corporations be reflected in the Corporate Equality Index? If Coca-Cola is sanctioning the murder of pro-union organizers in South America (including LGBT employees and union leaders) will they still get a 100% rating on LGBT equality? If another large corporation doesn't offer LGBT non-discrimination protections in their foreign offices, will it count again them?
The short answer is "No."
Daryl Herrschaft responded to my question by stating the CEI is "one indicator and people should look at others that are important to them." HRC currently questions respondents about their policies overseas, and make the occasional note on their website but abuses of LGBT people in other countries will not affect the company's score on the CEI because it only focuses on the US.
Speaking of the inordinate amount of research and follow-up that an international scale would necessarily require, Herrschaft told me, "HRC doesn't have the level of competency to do a good job of that. We're not set up like that."
He continued, "If there was a company that was firing people at will in Brazil we would raise that and it would be a huge deal. The CEI has enormous influence - especially for human resources officials (most of them straight) who are dedicated to educating themselves and their companies. But the CEI is not the end-all-be-all of how a company should be viewed."
HRC cited Verizon as an example of a company that they took to task for not supporting the LGBT community after the corporation's board put out a statement opposing a shareholder resolution to include non-discrimination policies for gender identity. The group lost 15 points on the CEI and was publicly reprimanded for the stance. If there was a similar situation surrounding a foreign subsidiary, HRC would take the same action.
Pam asked how HRC thought the changes would be received by the LGBT community. Staffers acknowledged that some will be unhappy with the amount of time necessary to institute the changes, but offered a reasonable explanation. Most companies only change insurance contracts every year or two; the gap in time allows them to update their policy contracts. (If they announce the changes today and an LGBT-friendly corp just signed a new contract it could be up to two years before they would qualify for a 100% rating again. Large companies tend to covet the HRC rating and it would alienate some of the corps who would otherwise be entirely supportive.
Look for details to emerge later this afternoon.