Guest Blogger

Trans-friendliness in the workplace: The 2009 Corporate Equality Index

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 08, 2008 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: CEI, Corporate Equality Index, employment discrimination, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Jillian T. Weiss, labor, report, transgender, transgender workplace diversity, workforce, workplace protections

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.

Jill+Weiss.jpgThe 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.

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You need to stop believing HRC on the CEI and actually talk with transgender employees who work for those so-called 100% companies. I am one of this people. In my opinion, the HRC CEI is the biggest piece of shit that HRC throws out to make them look like they really are doing something good, while they really don't care. It's BS at its maximum. Their bar is set so low that the KKK could get at least a 50% with HRC. You need to do more research on this subject, and keep HRC's figures out of the mix, or only use it as a comparison.

I have a continuing point of concern with the CEI that still hasn't really shown any change:

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).

They've made this impossibly easy to get full points. If a company covers hysterectomies for cancer patients, they qualify. And what if "mental health counseling" coverage equals coverage of the therapist of the company's choice, possibly one who practices reparative therapy?

I don't say this to bash the HRC here (believe it or not), but rather to challenge them on this. Let's see this improved for 2010. The CEI could be a great tool in working for the betterment of the trans community, but they need to raise the bar a little.

This is sometimes difficult for the GLB community to relate to, because they don't have a medical process related to being LGB. For transsexuals, decent therapy is absolutely necessary, because of how the surgeries, meds and such are gatekeepered. Hormone therapy is likewise crucial and a lifetime commitment. And for some, the prospect of never being able to afford their bottom surgery is enough to drive them to suicide.

I'm not saying "gimme everything." I'm saying, let's say this year, they have to cover one of the above, next year two, maybe 4 for 2011.... And the counseling requirement should be specified for a therapist of the patient's choice, because no two therapists are the same.

How would you improve it, Mercedes? How would you set up the third requirement?

Mostly as stated. They would need to issue a letter to participants right now, to give them advance notice that the requirements will be changing. Then require two of the above for 2010, 4 of the above for 2011...

I think this is fair. It takes time, of course, for companies to negotiate this kind of thing into an existing health benefits package or develop a new package, but it sort of pushes them to do so. And some of that wording (i.e. "mental health counseling") needs to be better defined to prevent twisting of it.

I think that the standards are far to low to be considered valid especially since the medical part says only medically necessary surgery and doesn't mention anything about covering Srs, mtf or ftm.How many trans employees do they have and do they agree that the company meets the standard their claiming? I realize pushing to hard could have a negative effect but it seems to me that not pushing hard enough has resulted in this index.

I am not an HRC supporter any more and while I understand a FUD factor surrounding the HRC 2008 CEI, I can say that the company I worked for when I transitioned was VERY supportive - AND has scored 100% on the CEI for over 6 years. Admittedly this is 1 out of (Fortune) 500, but it showed me the company stood firmly behind their statements. I even received a note of encouragement from the Senior VP of HR the day after I started working as Jenny.

The workplace project at HRC has been a consistent transgender supporter; it is the political (and more visable) side who has continually thrown us (TGs) under the bus. The standard for reaching 100% have been incrementally increased every year since the CEI's inception. TG inclusion wasn't even in the first several years of the CEI, yet the number of 100% companies keeps growning.

I think Dr. Weiss is trying to say that just because the CEI is an HRC document, don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. After all, the information companies provide HRC is voluntary and therefore needs to be taken with a grain of salt (and sometimes a big one!).

Your company might be supportive, until you need a medically necessary procedure and then see how useless the HRC CEI really is. Been there. Done that.

Melanie Davis | September 9, 2008 5:37 AM

Oh, and how about asking if they have actually hired trans people during or after transition. Yes, I know this is an impossible to answer question, but it is a very important one to ask. transitioning on the job seems to be a hell of a lot easier than securing one during or after transition.

I hear that a local pimp is looking to add some girls like me to his stable; he'll even front the money for implants and hormones. I wonder how he would score on HRC's little list?

While the document is definitely flawed, I do think it can show some change if one is willing to interpret it a little. At least these companies aren't slamming the door in HRC's face just because it's the queer lobby. I mean, that's something.

Well, when you're facing possible breast cancer, heart attacks, stroke and bone density loss because your 100% company doesn't care, then you would have a slightly different perspective on HRC's crappy CEI.

Angela Brightfeather | September 9, 2008 3:29 PM

The HRC CEI Report is not valid at all.

"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)."

Every one of these "goals" for a good score take into account about only 5% of the Transgender Community and are associated with transitioning, when 95% of the Transgender community still have to remain inthe closet for fear of losing their jobs if they come out as a crossdresser.

Fact is, CD's who would have the hutzpah to say on their application forms that they are "gender diverse" would not get hired by most of these affirming companies on the CEI list getting 100% ratings.

Fact is, that any CD who does come out in these companies, without ever having the intention of having gender corrective surgery would be the cause for massive concern and eventual discrimination intheir workplace.

Fact is, that even though CD's may not need anything beyond the regular insurance coverage from a company, they would still be under dire scrutiny for not having a lack of committment to having SRS.

Proof is, how many CD's are working in these companies right now that are totally afraid of coming out and do not come out because they know it would lead to the loss of promotions and/or their jobs.

The CEI is a wish list for Transgender people who need to transtion fully. If you want to ask a question that drops these statistics to totally below 100%, then ask this.
"Do you allow gender diverse people to come to work dressed as they wish to express themselves and within the dress codes of your company?"
"Which bathroom do you allow crossdressers in your company to use and how is that determined?"
Do you allow your employees to express their gender preference on a daily basis?"

I guarantee you that no one will get 100% on that poll. That leaves 95% of the Transgender Community still laboring in silence and discrimination.

And yes, it is radical to think that a person should be able to express their gender diversity daily as they please without being discriminated against. But don't kid yourself with a slap on the back and a high rating until that happens.

I don't see that the CEI would require a person to work toward GRS and/or view them with suspicion if they choose not to. I suspect that most businesses would simply view that as a relief that they (or their insurer) don't have to pay out the money.

I will agree however, that the current CEI does not adequately protect people on the basis of gender expression and protect them from firing or abuse if CD status is ever found out.

So the CEI may be rose-colored glasses on the situation for trans workers, but has anybody had any success in using it to introduce specific changes in one's own workplace? As in, "everyone else is doing it" but fudging on the fudginess of what exactly everyone else is doing?

I agree with all of the above comments. Let's work towards a better system.

J'Lissabeth | October 27, 2008 3:28 PM

Yes, once again, the HRC has proved to care about no one but white, upper middle class, gay men. It is an insult how these companies are rated. I am an employee of a 100% company and I assure you it is not accurate.