Bil Browning

HRC to announce changes to Corporate Equality Index

Filed By Bil Browning | March 03, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: CEI, Corporate Equality Index, HRC, LGBT job protections, transgender

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.


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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | March 3, 2009 1:34 PM

The changes that HRC is making in CEI are significant and quite welcomed. The report does have a strong impact on the LGBT policies of major corporations.

One could say, good for HRC for making the changes.

One could also say that the way they rated companies on gender inclusion in the first place was misleading and dishonest, and never should have been done that way in the first place.

It will be very hard for HRC to engender any trust in the T community, and it's going to require deeds done in a timely manner. Those deeds would be unequivocal support for nothing less than fully inclusive hate crimes and ENDA legislation, as well as inclusive repeal of DADT, now. About all we trust HRC to do now is to screw over the T community, and to steal money from local organizations.

It's refreshing to hear Daryl Herrschaft acknowledge that the CEI is only one indicator of a company's attitudes toward the LGBT community.

I've long been critical that the CEI fails to accurately measure the internal climate of companies. Having and enforcing nondiscrimination policies are two different things. Offering diversity training and actively promoting effective bias-reduction programs are two different things.

I wish we had a decent workplace climate survey of the sort conducted by the Great Places to Work Institute as a compliment to the CEI. (GPtWI, by the way, only includes a few basic questions pertaining to LGBT equality.) Such a survey could provide insight into which companies create a welcoming environment for LGBT employees and customers and which only pass unenforced HR policies as a marketing gesture.

I applaud the inclusion of external engagement in LGBT issues. During the last few months, it has been heart-breaking to witness the number of well-ranked (by the CEI) companies with figurehead leaders on the books as donors and supporters of initiatives like Prop 8.

Keeping in mind that the CEI is only one measure of a company, the conscientious shopper or prospective employee can continue their research by searching for news stories about the company's interactions with the LGBT community (especially how the company follows up on claims of discrimination by LGBT people or to boycotts from groups like the AFA). They can look to the public records of donors to anti-equality voter initiatives like Prop 8. I would also recommend checking in with other national groups working with corporate America like the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Pride at Work, and Out & Equal. Industry-specific comments may also come from professional groups like the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association of the National LGBT Bar Association. Finally, if you're in the enviable position of being recruited by more than one company and you care about the environment for LGBT companies, it's completely acceptable to ask for the names and contacts of any openly LGBT people at the corporation from whom you may ask for frank and honest feedback about their experiences.

In the current economic environment, few of us have the luxury of choosing between multiple offers of employment or deciding to shop at a more expensive provider of goods, but for those of us who have the means to make principled decisions about where we work or shop, the CEI is only the starting point for determining which companies are truly the cream of the crop and which are only interested in making empty policy gestures in hopes of attracting the pink dollars.

I still have two questions:

1. Will trans health care responses still be worth only 5 points?

2. Will HRC require proof of an insurance policy that covers transgender related surgeries or will they take the corporation at its word?

Maybe I should cross-post this on the other thread....

Meghan Stabler | March 3, 2009 6:28 PM

Alex

As for the points; NO. Remember this is a far broader requirement. Previously it was 1 of 5 to get points. Not it is like making the "all in" move in poker. You need to provide all medically necessary coverage based on the recommendations of WPATH, AND, have exclusions removed from a plan.

As for plan submissions, yes, totally. Should a plan state coverage, but an employee claim the "practice" of doing the policy is not being carried through, we will follow up with the company to correct the situation, or if they won't, remove from the 100% list.

Meghan

Alex -

I asked on the call. The answers are:

1. No.
2. Yes.

And I'll point readers to Samir Luther's guest post from this afternoon explaining a lot of the questions our readers will have.

Brandi,

I don't often find myself defending the HRC, but have you read Samir's post, or clicked through and read the PDF discussing how they came to these changes? Also, your reference to companies as "cash cows" for the HRC doesn't exactly ring true. While they do get some corporate sponsorship, it's not much. Frankly, big corporations are far more likely to give to non-political (and therefore less controversial) organizations like the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce or Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

I have many, many issues with the HRC, but everything I've seen and read about these changes to the CEI suggest good news and progress, even for transgender folks. I may be proved wrong, but I don't want to jump the gun, either.