Marriage comes with many benefits. Even for LGBT Americans fortunate enough to work for employers that recognize and cover their same-gender husbands and wives, the cost can be onerous. LGBT Americans are denied the opportunity to pay for such benefits pre-tax. This means the cost of such benefits can add tens of thousands of dollars to an LGBT American’s bottom line of taxable income. New York Times is reporting internet mega-corps Google is taking a major step toward addressing that inequity.
On Thursday, Google is going to begin covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, largely to compensate them for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.
More after the fold (right, Google employees participate in Gay Pride in Dublin, Irleand).
“It’s a fairly cutting edge thing to do,” said Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery, a law firm in Chicago, and author of “Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide.”
The article, sourcing Human Rights Campaign, lists Cisco, Kimpton Hotels and the Gates Foundation as among the handful of other companies that have preceded Google on this move.
This article specifies these benefits will apply only to same-gender couples, as opposite gender couples have the option to marry. They would then receive the same benefit from the Federal Government, not at Google’s expense. There are 700 members of Google’s gay employee group (which is not reserved for only gay employees, and may also represent straight allies).
And let’s hear it for gay employee’s groups. Can we presume some inequities are a matter of inertia? LGBT employees speaking up can affect real change:
The company began to look at the disparity after a gay employee pointed it out, said Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for people operations (also known as human resources). Google, by the way, says its benefits team seriously considers any suggestions on how to expand its coverage.
“We said, ‘You’re right, that doesn’t seem fair,’ so we looked into it,” Mr. Bock said. “From that initial suggestion, we said, let’s take a look at all the benefits we offer and see if we are being truly fair across the board.” As a result, the company also decided to make a few other changes that would help gay employees, including eliminating a one-year waiting period before qualifying for infertility benefits and including domestic partners in its family leave policy.
It’s nice to see the company’s participation in our Gay Pride Events represents more than just a branding and marketing opportunity for them. Far from just a chance for them to plead to our community to give them our money, it represent a very real commitment–measurable in monetary terms–to making the lives of their LGBT employees lives easier and more equitable. Bravo!
More on Google’s commitment to workplace diversity and what programs they offer can be found here. Here’s a nice article about Google’s participation in Gay Pride events in San Francisco (where they claim to have had 300 in attendance) and across the nation. An official Google blog entry is here and a Picasa album is here.
Above, Google’s gay employees group participates in San Francisco Pride Sunday.