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HRC strengthens criteria for its Corporate Equality Index

HRC outlined changes to its Corporate Equality Index during a press call with Marti Abernathey, Bil Browning, and HRC staffers Daryl Herrschaft, director of the HRC Foundation Workplace Project, Meghan Stabler, transgender activist and member of the HRC Business Council,  Trevor Thomas,  and Samir Luther.  Chris Johnson of HRC Back Story also participated, along with your blogmistress.

The changes will recalibrate what it means when a company scores a 100 on the Index, most notably by raising the bar regarding transgender rights and benefits.

The new criteria will require that all employees have access to at least 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.

“These new criteria get right to the core issues of how insurance plans exclude transgender employees. By aligning the new requirements to ‘medically necessary’ coverage defined by recognized standards of care and removing transgender-related exclusions from healthcare plans, we have significantly raised the bar allowing businesses to enhance their commitment to all employees,” said Meghan Stabler, national transgender activist and HRC Business Council member. “Right now, hundreds of businesses will begin working to expand coverage to transgender employees. With this powerful new tool, our community must set out to educate human resource and benefits professionals about why these benefits are needed, not just for individual employees and their dependents, but to secure employer-of-choice status in the LGBT community.”

…”With these new standards, the CEI will continue to be a powerful incentive for businesses to make real change that will impact the everyday lives of LGBT Americans in every corner of our country,” said Daryl Herrschaft, Director of the HRC Foundation Workplace Project. “But it will not happen by itself. Between now and 2011, it will take the coordinated effort of employees and LGBT advocates to make these policy changes reality.”

Rating Criteria 3.0

Underlined text indicates new or revised criteria.  

  1. Equal employment opportunity policy includes:  
    1. Gender identity or expression
    2. Sexual orientation
  2. Employment benefits  
    1. Equivalent spousal and partner benefitsand
      Spousal benefits encompass state-recognized same-sex spouses, partners and civil unions (more info)
    2. Transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage following WPATH Standards of Care (more info)
  3. Organizational LGBT competency  
    1. Competency training, resources or accountability measures (more info)
    2. Employee group –or
      Diversity council
    3. Engagement and diversity metrics (more info)
  4. Public commitment
    External LGBT-specific efforts, including at least three of the following: recruiting, supplier diversity, marketing or advertising, philanthropy or public support for legal LGBT equality (more info)
  5. Responsible citizenship
    No known activity that would undermine LGBT equality

Businesses will be rewarded for demonstrated, ongoing supplier diversity programs that include LGBT-owned suppliers, public support for equal rights legislation and sustained sponsorship and philanthropy. The new system also enhances requirements for diversity training, resources and accountability.

The new points allocation will be announced by March 2010, with, as Herrschaft noted, the full criteria applied in 2011. The timeline is below the fold.

Key Dates

2009: Mar. 31: 2010 CEI Survey released to participants (includes clearly marked questions that will count toward the current and/or the new criteria).

2010:  Mar. 31: 2011 CEI Survey released to participants (includes clearly marked questions that will count toward the current and/or the new criteria).  Point allocations for new criteria will be announced. Participants will receive preliminary rating evaluations under the current and new criteria upon survey submission.

2011:    * Mar.31: 2012 CEI Survey released to participants (includes clearly marked questions that will count toward the new criteria only).

     Participants will receive preliminary rating evaluations using new criteria only.

   * Jun. 30: 2012 CEI Survey must be submitted to HRC Foundation by the end of June.

   * Jul. 29: Participants must demonstrate that all new non-benefits criteria have been met and that all new benefits criteria will be met by Jan. 1, 2012.

   * Sep. 1: 2012 CEI Report released to public with new criteria only.

2012:  Jan. 1: Because benefits typically operate on an annual cycle, all benefits changes must be effective by Jan. 1, 2012.

The logical reason for the rollout as described above, Daryl Herrschaft noted, was  that the changes require renegotiations of insurance contracts (usually renewed annually). However, the reality is many companies that previously received a 100 and will not under the new criteria will start working now to maintain their ranking. Many of the 500 companies in response to changes in the Index  have already contacted HRC to find out how they could best comply and modify internal policies. Meghan Stabler underscored that the benefits organizations and HR departments will take some time to work out details in those new health insurance contracts — for instance, the definition of “medically necessary” is quite broad, and that in itself will raise questions that corporations have to consider. An example that was cited — rhinoplasty for MTFs, supported by the WPATH standards of care, should not be restricted in an insurance policy offered by a company if it is to receive at 100% score. That’s one of many items to be negotiated, and many insurance companies are not yet well-versed in T issues to write an inclusive policy.

While this news is positive, there are concerns. The CEI would display a 100 rating for multi-national companies that may have progressive LGBT policies stateside, but an overseas operations in a country that is allowed to discriminate against LGBT employees. We were told that the Index only rates operations based in the U.S.but that the inequity would be noted. Bil Browning:

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.”

This is obviously a step forward in terms of transparancy and accountability for corporations participating in the CEI. Do you think it will result in a more accurate assessment tool?

Also: Samir Luther has a column on the Index up at Bilerico.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding