Alex Blaze

HRC's Corporate Equality Index 2008

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 03, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: CEI, employment discrimination, gender identity, health care benefits, HRC, HRC Corporate Equality Index, Human Rights Campaign, sex reassignment surgery, sexual orientation, srs

I could tell that HRC's Corporate Equality Index, which ranks LGBT worker friendliness of major corporations based on a questionnaire, was out because I got a bunch of press releases from corporations with subject lines bragging about how LGBT friendly they are. I had to go to HRC's site to get the full scoop.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation today released the seventh annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates 583 businesses on a scale from 0 to 100 percent on their treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, consumers and investors. The 2009 edition of the CEI reports 259 businesses achieved a perfect score, a one-third increase over last year when the number was 195. The 259 top-rated businesses collectively employ more than 9 million full-time employees. These workers are protected from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression because of their employers' policies on diversity & inclusion, training, health care, and domestic partnership benefits.

I've already written about my skepticism when it comes to the CEI. It doesn't find out how LGBT employees are being treated - it simply asks HR directors what the company's official policies are. There's a huge difference.

A friend of mine tried to get the domestic partnership insurance benefits from his partner's employer (CEI 100) but he was never able to get them. The corporation simply denied that they were in a relationship that would qualify, even after they had lived together for several years.

Monica Helms worked for a company (CEI 100) that wouldn't pay for SRS because it was "cosmetic," even though paying for SRS is part of the CEI (turns out that the real standards are much lower). (K, Monica corrected me in the comments. It was not SRS, but an orchie.)

I personally worked for a business that had a non-discrimination policy. I was harassed, threatened, and then sent on my way when my contract ended. I received the highest evaluation of all the people who worked there for the one evaluation period I was there for, but they renewed everyone's contract (including a few people who lied on their job applications, harmed children on the job, and didn't show up to work regularly) except for mine.

While that business wasn't rated by the CEI, if asked if they had a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation, they would have said yes. And they would have gotten the points for that response. But it sure didn't feel like that policy was in place. (Since I worked there the business went under and the land and buildings were bought up by a much friendlier competitor. Karma's a bitch.)

I could go on, but the point is that just because a business says they don't discriminate doesn't mean that they don't, in fact, discriminate. And a useful tool for the LGBT community would survey (anonymously) the people who work for a corporation as well as examine corporate policy.

Of course, that'd be expensive and time-consuming and it isn't really the goal of the CEI, which is one big advertising campaign for HRC. But we should be skeptical and take this Index with a grain of salt - asking oppressors if they're oppressive doesn't lead to the truth.

On another note, they're saying that the question related to SRS has improved over last year:

Since 2006, CEI participants have been asked to ensure that at least one of five types of medically necessary treatment was available to transgender employees without exclusion. For the first time this year, the CEI contains a more detailed review of documentation that businesses submitted in order to determine whether a broader range of medically necessary treatments would be covered by an insurance plan. In the section entitled "Ending Benefits Discrimination against Transgender Employees," the HRC Foundation found that 49 businesses have taken significant and substantial steps to remove discrimination from at least one of their health insurance plans. These businesses are highlighted in the report's appendices.

I know next to nothing about this topic, so I look forward to reading what others have to say about this change.

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Actually, it wasn't SRS I was seeking. I was asking for something that other employees with the same parts can get, but because I'm a transsexual, it has to be "cosmetic" for me. I was trying to get them to pay for an orchiectomy. The insurance company is also essentially calling my two doctors liars be saying it isn't "medically necessary." I even sent them a copy of the AMA's Resolution 122 that contradicts them on every turn.

I have been listed as a "female" by my company since I started living as Monica, so the insurance company said I cannot get an orchie. I figured that if they were going to deny that, then I should ask for a hystorectomy, then have the doctors charge them for that. It costs more. "We performed a hystorectomy on Ms. Helms, but we just didn't have to go in very far."

My company has "Gender Identity" in the EEO policy and they are allowing the insurance company to violate their EEO policy. So, this has also become a discrimination issue. Because there isn't a lot of us in the company, they think they can get away with it because we will remain silent. (HA!) I'm the last tranny who will remain silent. It ain't over. Trust me.

And yet, all of my requests from HRC to lower my company's rating falls on deaf ears. It's because the bar is set so low for everything, especially trans issue, that the KKK could probably get at least a 50% without trying. The CEI is the most worthless piece of shit HRC has come up with, outside of their political maneuvers.

Well, they seem to be asking more questions about SRS, but it doesn't actually impact the score a company gets. Here's how it breaks down.

A company gets 5 points for including at least one of five trans related benefits. Surgery coverage is one, but so is allowing time off to recover from surgery. So 75% of the companies can get the full points even though only 12% cover surgeries and only 21% cover hormones and related medical visits. That's the same deal as it was last year.

The improvement is that they've realized that many companies are unaware of discriminatory policies in their insurance contracts. So instead of just taking HR at their word when they say "Uh, sure, of course our health insurance covers trans folks," they've now started asking for documentation that shows that to be the case.

The results, are pretty clear -- the 2008 CEI claimed that 27% of companies surveyed covered surgeries. With that number reduced to 12% in the 2009 report, it seems that 15% of the companies were falsely reporting.

Oh, I just realized my claim of 15% of the total CEI false reporting claim was inaccurate. I didn't account for the fact that more companies were surveyed in 2009 than in 2008.

Breaking it into hard numbers, 141 companies claimed to cover surgeries in the 2008 report. Only 70 companies could verify that claim in 2009. Especially given the increase in surveyed companies, it's likely that some of the 70 were new in this report. That means that at least 50% of the companies claiming to cover surgeries (and at least 12% of the entire CEI) were reporting falsely.

So I'll give credit when it's due, and congratulate the HRC on rooting out half of the companies falsely reporting that they provide trans-inclusive benefits. Unfortunately, this doesn't really have an impact on the score those companies receive. Because you can still score 100 while having discriminatory health plans that that exclude trans people from coverage.

thanks for explaining what's up, Tobi! Their press release doesn't mention actually counting the results, but it's good that they're asking for proof.

If only they'd ask for proof of everything else they ask about.

As noted by Tobi, the CEI rates trans issues in a single lump.

They can have one little thing, such as paying for post surgery recovery time through a company sponsored benefit plan for 6 weeks that has nothing to do with actual trans surgery recovery, and be rated as 100% for trans stuff.

The CEI needs to properly weight these questions individually, in order to get an accurate assessment of a company's score.

For 5 years, this has been the request, and for five years, it has been ignored as unimportant.

Go figure.

I've already written about my skepticism when it comes to the CEI. It doesn't find out how LGBT employees are being treated - it simply asks HR directors what the company's official policies are. There's a huge difference.

just because a business says they don't discriminate doesn't mean that they don't, in fact, discriminate. And a useful tool for the LGBT community would survey (anonymously) the people who work for a corporation as well as examine corporate policy.

Do you mean to tell me, Alex, that corporations lie? Surely you jest!

something i want to note is that right now, if you search just for trans surgery coverage, it returns 367 yes responses.

this includes companies like American Power Conversion Corp.with a score of 63 and coverage for everything (including opposite sex partners).

Or Aegon USA Inc, which has a score of 40 but covers everything transrelated and a great many of the benefits to LGB people. Aegon also has a written policy covering transition, which APC does not.

Meanwhile, Amex doesn't have such a policy and gets 100.

Then you go to their "best places to work" listing, and you find 195 companies listed.

Many of whom do not offer any transrelated coverage.

Such as us airways.


and more.

Now, don't get me wrong.

There is value in this list.

Now that there is a new edition out, I can spend the time going through it and identifying the best companies to work for if you are trans.

So that's a good thing.

But the way the HRC uses it leaves a lot to be desired.

This is only one problem with HRC's CEI. I'm much more concerned with the lack of attention it pays to other aspects of corporate responsibility. Many of the companies that receive high scores have been under major investigation for human rights abuses (or racist, sexist policies), i.e. Wal-Mart, Abercrombie & Fitch, Coca-Cola. Further, the abuses of these companies seem to fall on the backs of low-income folks, particularly people of color, and folks in developing nations. It's as if HRC says that it's impossible to be a queer in a developing country, a black queer, etc. The definition of what the CEI deems as pro-LGBT seems to be a very narrow, Western, rich and white concept.

Agreed, Amanda. That's my concern as well.

When the CEI started seven years ago, it was helpful in determining how gay friendly a company was for its employees. Now, as almost every business is jumping on the non-discrimination bandwagon, we need a measurement that shows whether those policies are enforced and includes other human rights issues (racism, sexism, human rights abuses in other countries, etc).

I just has a pissed-off moment here at work. I go to the intra-company's web page to find information for a customer and what do I see staring me in the face but the HRC symbol and my company touting their 100% rating for this year. I was so pissed that I could have bitten of the head of a rattle snake so quickly that it wou't have even known what hit it. I'm still spitting venom.

Congressional Hearing on Discrimination
Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace
This historic hearing took place on Thursday, June 26, 2008.

Congressman Tim Ryan OH,
This could be an opportunity to pass gender identity inclusion.
Please consider passing this on to your contacts.
I hope this helps...33 years later
WHEN JONI CHRISTIAN was a little boy, she prayed every day that God would
change her into a girl.
The Ursuline High School graduate got her wish with the help of hormone
therapy and surgery at age 26. This November marked a milestone for
Christian: 32 years as a woman, 6 years longer than she was a male.
The process of gender reassignment, although a seemingly radical
transformation, was Christian's salvation, despite the ridicule, sarcasm and
shunning she experienced when she returned to the life she once lived as a
Women she worked with at General Motors Lordstown assembly plant circulated
a petition to keep her out of the restroom; men stared and hurled cruel
"I became a freak in a sideshow when I went back to work," she said, adding,
"I don't blame them; they had no other way to deal with it."
Since 1975, the year of her surgery, the culture in the Mahoning Valley and
at GM has become more tolerant but, she said, there is still a long way to
"By the time I was 4 or 5 years old, I knew I wanted to express my natural
femininity," Christian recalled, "and I realized it wasn't acceptable."
Lessons learned in a Catholic grade school reinforced the notion that boys
should be tough, masculine. Even the playground was segregated, boys on one
side, girls on the other, Christian said.
"Puberty was a nightmare. My body was turning into a monster doing the
opposite of what I wanted to happen. In high school I thought I might be
gay, even though I wasn't attracted to boys, and I knew you must deny and
suppress that."
What happened
In 1968, a year after graduating from high school, Christian went to work at
GM and was drafted into the Army a year later.
"That was where I came to know that this was something I had to deal with,"
she said. During the 10 months and 28 days Christian spent in the service
she was released on a family hardship, she saw an article in Life magazine
about women who had been born male and had undergone sex-change surgery.
"That's when I knew it was possible," she said, breathing a sigh of relief.
In 1970 she went to Cleveland Clinic, where she said she "instantly became
an experiment."
After a series of psychological exams, she started taking estrogen. The
rapid changes taking place in her body weren't readily apparent under her
work coveralls in the paint department at the automotive assembly plant, so
she encountered few problems with co-workers.
But with all the costs for hormone therapy coming out-of-pocket, and the
knowledge that the costs of the surgery would also be her personal expense,
Christian began wondering whether this was the best route for her to follow.
She stopped taking estrogen, met a woman who had a young daughter, and began
entertaining the idea of living a more traditional life. The couple married
three months later.
"I thought a relationship would make it all go away," Christian said. "I
thought I could be straight, or normal, is that the right word?.... I
really wanted to be a parent and my wife's parents thought I was a good
For the first two years, married life "was pretty OK," she said. She adopted
her wife's daughter and the family seemed like any other. "But after two
years that thing I had tried to suppress, run away from, was still there."
Christian turned to drinking and using drugs to escape, but an automobile
accident brought her face to face with reality. "I had to do something to
get real again. I told my wife and I started back on estrogen."
The night before gender reassignment surgery, the term she prefers over
"sex change," she lay in her bed at the former Southside Hospital, praying
no one would barge in and stop the procedure.
The only time she had contemplated suicide was when she had opted to go
forward with the surgery and physicians at Cleveland Clinic turned her away.
Nine months before the surgery, Christian's wife had given birth to their
daughter. While Christian was recovering, the wife brought the baby to the
hospital to visit. Christian said she loved the baby and was wracked with
guilt for going forward with the surgery, not knowing what the impact would
be on her daughter.
She was also worried about how her mother would react.
"My mother never knew about it until after the surgery. I couldn't tell her.
I asked my ex to do it," she said. Afterward, "my mom became my best friend
for life. She stayed when the rest of the world left."
Christian's marriage was dissolved in February 1976, three months after her
surgery. After the wife remarried, she tried to abolish Christian's parental
rights so her new husband could adopt the little girl. The ensuing court
battle bankrupted Christian, but it was worth the expense, she said.
"The hardest thing I ever did was one day when I took my daughter to the
playground when she was about 7 years old. She was playing on the monkey
bars and I asked her how she would feel if she didn't see me for awhile. She
said she wanted to keep seeing me and I decided right then that it should be
her choice when she doesn't want to see me anymore."
Although the relationship has never been a traditional father-daughter one,
Christian said she and her biological and adopted daughters have maintained
family ties. They call her Joni, not Dad.
When her biological daughter married, Christian selected the music and sang
at the ceremony. "People asked me if I felt bad because I couldn't walk her
down the aisle. I told them walking her down the aisle isn't as important as
being here."
Glad for GM, union
Although returning to work 31/2 months after undergoing gender-reassignment
surgery was challenging, Christian said her job at GM and membership in
United Autoworkers Local 1112 made it possible for her to change her life.
The company provided the paycheck that enabled her to pay for medical
treatment and a drawn-out court battle to maintain her parental rights; the
union protected her from being fired or discriminated against on the job.
"If it would not have been for my union, I would have been fired," Christian
said. "A lot of supervisors had major issues with me. Some did not want me
working for them."
"The union respected me as a union person even if some of the members didn't
approve of me. The union taught me that an injury to one was an injury to
As years passed, Christian transferred from the paint department to quality
assurance, a job in which she moved throughout the plant. She and her
co-workers eventually got used to each other; she won their respect and even
managed to build some friendships.
Thirty two years ago, when Christian came out as a transgender person, "no one at
work was out as being gay, bi [-sexual] or trans," she said. Since then, she
said, the situation has "relaxed a little."
GM and the UAW both sponsor diversity programs and sensitivity training.
© 2003, The Vindicator
I would like to offer myself as an example of success with my union.
Thank you.

Joni Christian
"Be careful who you hate,
it might just be someone you love."