June 2011Volume 5Number 1PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

The Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index

The Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index

Since 2002, through the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), the Human Rights Campaign has surveyed major businesses, including law firms, to benchmark important employer benefits and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and their families.

In 2006, the first year law firms were invited to participate, 12 achieved a 100 percent rating. An unprecedented 97 law firms achieved 100 percent ratings this year, eclipsing every other industry represented on the index.

The CEI Methodology

The CEI is not an award or overall “seal of approval.” It is an effective tool that is designed for a specific purpose: to improve workplace conditions for LGBT people by encouraging corporations to adopt pro-LGBT policies for their workforces. The CEI provides employers with clear standards that they must meet, creates competition (that had previously not existed) to expand LGBT-inclusive policies and progressively raises the bar, pushing corporations to earn their ratings with increased commitment to equality.

Every step of the way, HRC is there actively working with firm diversity managers and partnership committees, as well as with LGBT attorneys, to implement inclusive policies at the nation’s most prestigious firms. This partnership model has allowed twenty-three firms this year improve their ratings to 100 over the previous year.

The Science Behind the CEI

The survey collects key pieces of information to calculate an employer’s score and other information that measure trends and best practices among all businesses or particular industries. Last year, a total of 1,662 businesses received invitations to take part in the survey. Of that number, 590 were rated—461 submitted surveys and 129 were rated by HRC using publicly disclosed information.

The current rating system in effect rates businesses on the following set of criteria—employers must:

• Be inclusive by adopting equal employment opportunity policies that include gender identity or expression and sexual orientation

• Demonstrate organizational LGBT competency by providing training, resources or accountability measures where businesses exhibit a firm-wide, sustained and accountable commitment to diversity and cultural competency

• Provide employee benefits to LGBT employees by supporting same-sex partners of employees with health insurance, bereavement and family leave policies

• Support LGBT resource groups by providing funding and support to affinity groups or diversity councils, if there’s an expressed interest from employees

• Engage in appropriate and respectful advertising and marketing or sponsor LGBT community events or organizations

• Be responsible allies by declining to engage in any activities that would undermine the goal of equal rights for LGBT people.

Changes to the CEI

This year, HRC introduced a series of new metrics that, if adopted, could have a dramatic effect on the way of life of many LGBT individuals, particularly transgender employees. These updates include:

Transgender inclusive insurance

HRC will now put pressure on employers to give “equal health coverage” to its transgender employees for medically necessary care. The new criterion is a leap forward for the transgender community and it comes at a time when transgender individuals pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for medically-necessary services related to sex reassignment including: mental health benefits, pharmaceutical coverage for hormone replacement therapies, coverage for surgeries related to sex reassignment surgeries, and routine or chronic non-transition services.

Equal partner/spousal benefits

Not only will HRC now require businesses to make employee and spousal benefits equal for all employees, but with the growing number of states passing marriage and civil union legislation, HRC is asking companies to recognize state-registered same-sex partners, civil union partners and spouses when administering employee benefits.

Firm-wide diversity and competency training and metrics

Businesses must now demonstrate that LGBT workers are intentionally and consistently included in organizational assessments of climate, engagement and/or talent management. Adding LGBT demographic questions to internal surveys allows employers to better understand where they have LGBT employees, and how they perceive their work environment and their engagement levels. Because as the business maxim states: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

External engagement

Companies must now demonstrate ongoing LGBT-specific engagement that extends across the firm, including intentional LGBT recruitment efforts, marketing or advertising to LGBT consumers, philanthropic support or LGBT organization and public endorsement of LGBT equality legislation (local, state or federal) under the law. Efforts like these send a clear message to current and prospective LGBT employees that they are not only accepted by the organization, but valued.

Moving Forward

There has been and will continue to be thoughtful discussion about how to harmonize LGBT social justice with the practices of corporate America. In nine years, the CEI has help lead a sea-change in workplaces across the country by helping firms take the steps necessary to replace discriminatory practices from the workplace with more inclusive and progressive employment policies. But even with all of its success, HRC and businesses should not rest on their laurels. Both must continue to work together and utilize every opportunity to change LGBT workplace policies for the better, one step at a time, even as the LGBT community continues to fight to pass laws to ensure that all LGBT people are protected equally, no matter where they work.

For more information, please visit: <http://www.hrc.org/issues/workplace> ■

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