Sunday, September 23, 2007

Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index

The Human Rights Campaign has published its 2007 Corporate Equality Index, and the implications for transgender workplace diversity are most interesting. You can find the full report at this link. The report's author, HRC's Samir Luther, and the editor, Darryl Herrschaft, have done an excellent job of making the report more accessible and useful for HR professionals than ever before.

58% of CEI-rated employers provide employment protections on the basis of gender identity, compared to just 29 percent in 2005 and 46 percent in 2006. This year marks the first time that more than half of all rated employers included such protections. 68% of this year’s rated businesses have written gender transition guidelines or cover “gender identity” as a topic of diversity training, up from 59 percent last year. A total of 90 employers have transition guidelines, up from 65 last year.

The implication of these numbers is that large businesses are increasingly moving to include transgender people in their EEO policies, and to implement guidelines and training on gender transition.

What is a "CEI-rated employer"? The Human Rights Campaign Foundation invites the largest and most successful U.S. employers found on various lists, such as the Fortune 1000 and AmLaw's top 200 revenue grossing law firms. Any private-sector, for-profit employer with 500 or more full-time employees can request to participate. This year, a total of 1,806 businesses received invitations to take part in the survey. Of that number, 416 submitted surveys and 519 were ultimately rated. There is obviously a great deal of self-selection in this sample, so it can't be taken as representative of American business as a whole, or even large companies as a whole. But it is nonetheless very telling about those companies that consider themselves diversity leaders and employers of choice. Often, such early-adopters of new paradigms are followed by those who come to the table later on.

The report discusses transgender wellness benefits in detail, noting that most transgender people are categorically denied health insurance coverage for their medical needs, often irrespective of whether those medical needs are related to a gender transition. I have analyzed the HRC criteria in this respect before. The report offers some suggestions to employers about how to address these insurance issues, which is a nice addition. While the issues are fairly complex, and the report's necessarily brief explanation cannot do them justice, it should at least be clear that it is not sufficient to ignore these insurance issues.

78% of this year’s rated businesses provide at least one of five categories of treatment to their transgender employees. A total of 80 employers indicated that they provided insurance coverage without exclusion to their transgender employees for the purposes of medically supervised gender transitions; these employers had an average of 40,000

Of the employers that met this criterion:

 73 percent provide mental health benefits for counseling by a mental health professional.
 35 percent provide pharmacy benefits for hormone therapy.
 32 percent cover medical visits and lab procedures related to hormone therapy.
 27 percent provide health benefits for surgical procedures.
 74 percent provide short-term leave for surgical procedures.

The 27 percent figure is the most startling, as only a few years ago the number was zero. In addition, it is the transgender health benefit most feared by administrators who do not have an understanding of transgender issues. The great fear is that the benefit is going to be so expensive that it will drive up costs significantly for other plan participants. The truth is, as studies have shown, that its effect on overall premiums is slight because the number of people who are interested in such a benefit is such a small percentage of the population.

The Corporate Equality Index is must reading for those HR and legal professionals who are looking to create sound and effective transgender policies on the organizational level.