Prizm News / June 17, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

Photo by Joe Matessa

Cleveland Federal Club Council discussion on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index

By Elaine Schleiffer

On June 13, the Cleveland HRC Federal Club Council convened an update on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundations’ Corporate Equality Index (CEI).  The event was attended by representatives of companies who participate in the CEI, HRC members, and members of the community. 

Beck Bailey, HRC’s Deputy Director of Employee Engagement, presented on the continuing importance of the CEI. Begun in 2002, a year before same-sex relationships were decriminalized, the CEI has always sought to invite employers to be working on equality in advance of federal law.

That legacy has held true in many advocacy areas for LGBTQ+ employees, with employers making changes to policies, practices, benefits, and culture before being mandated by federal law mandated. The Corporate Equality Index has led the 572 businesses that maintain a perfect score to embrace changes like nondiscrimination policies, equal benefits for all employees, LGBTQ+ employee resource groups, and various other initiatives aimed at creating equality and equity. 

With a changing cultural landscape, the Corporate Equality Index has had to adjust several times in the years since its inception.

“I like to think of it as a stretch goal,” Bailey says. 

A major development in the past ten years has been health insurance coverage for transitioning individuals. Because the Corporate Equality Index mandates that employers offer insurance benefits for trans employees, employers aspiring to a perfect score have essentially created the insurance marketplace for those benefits. Currently, 850 companies receive 10 out of 10 points in the Corporate Equality Index for actively providing and selecting trans inclusive healthcare services for their insurance plans. 

Bailey’s work on the Corporate Equality Index has moved hundreds of companies toward a more inclusive company culture, a change that is reflected in increasing the number of both participating companies as well as companies that receive a perfect score. 

On the day of the meeting, FirstEnergy’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group celebrated the one year anniversary of its founding, with several representatives present for this update on the CEI. Jonathan Stein, Category Leader in Marketing for Nestle, shared his pride for his employer, which just scored 100 on the Corporate Equality Index for the first time this year. 

For his part, Bailey knows that an inclusive company culture is just as impactful on the personal level as on an economic level. He shared the story of his own first job, at a company he loved, doing work he loved—but in an environment that wasn’t able to embrace his whole identity. 

“I left that job to find a place where I could be more authentically myself,” Bailey says. “And in doing so, I lost a job I loved and colleagues I loved. But the employer lost something too: they lost me.”

Elaine Schleiffer is a community organizer, writer, and advocate focused on reproductive justice and queer rights in Cleveland, Ohio. Find her at elaineschleiffer.com