Posted by: outandequal | May 21, 2013

Minneapolis, Minnesota – Equality in the Heartland

By Brianna Nelson, Communications Associate | Just one week ago the Minnesota senate passed marriage equality, and Governor Dayton signed the measure into law, making Minnesota the 12th state where all citizens can enjoy full and equal marriage rights. Out & Equal is overjoyed for Minnesotans. We’ve had faith in their equality movement since long before the moment we chose to host the 2013 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Minneapolis. We are thrilled to continue advancing LGBT equality together at the Workplace Summit, October 29-31.

Get to Know Minneapolis 

It’s not just for Mary Tyler Moore – Ellen Degeneres visiting the Mary Tyler Moore statue in downtown Minneapolis.

It’s not just for Mary Tyler Moore – Ellen Degeneres visiting the Mary Tyler Moore statue in downtown Minneapolis.

Now that Minnesota’s in the spotlight for their equal rights efforts and successes, why not take a minute to get to know the great city of Minneapolis a little bit better. There’s no time like the present to register for Summit (ultra early bird rates are still available!) and start your trip planning.

Minneapolis is not only a cultural hub of the US Midwest but also of the entire country. It houses countless art museums, including the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Minneapolis is second only to New York City in live theater per capita. (Recording artist Prince studied at the Minnesota Dance Theatre. And, more recently, Minneapolis has been home to the burgeoning Midwestern spoken word and hip hop scene.) The metropolis is certainly deserving of its nickname “The Minne Apple”.

If you’d rather be on the bleachers than in the museum, Minnesota boasts teams in all four professional leagues – Twins (MLB), Timberwolves (NBA), Vikings (NFL), and the Minnesota Wild (NHL). For our lucky Workplace Summit travelers, the US football season will be well underway, and hockey season as well as NBA regular season will just be starting – Who knows, perhaps you could catch a ga(y)me featuring the next out professional athlete.

Of course, before you can be on the bleachers, you have to get to the game. There’s no shortage of public transit options in this city – with your choices ranging from light rail to bike trail, commuter rail to cab hail. However, if you’re staying downtown (like Out & Equal for the Workplace Summit at the Minneapolis Convention Center), the chances of needing to do more than walk across the street – by crosswalk or skywalk – are slim. Walk Score ranks Minneapolis the ninth most walkable city in the United States.

You’ve been waiting to hear about the gayborhood? I thought you knew, this whole town’s been painted purple. In 2011, the Advocate announced Minneapolis the number one gayest city in America. For further reading, check out these LGBT Minneapolis guides – Autostraddle’s Queer City Guide, the official Diverse Minneapolis guide, or get the insider’s view with Lavender Magazine.

Please visit Out & Equal’s website for more information about the opportunities available at the 2013 Workplace Summit, October 29-31. P.S. Corporate partnerships available.

Image Source:

Image Source:

by Rhonda Smith, Reporter, Bloomberg BNA | A small but growing number of large employers have begun implementing policies that offset the additional taxes employees who have same-sex spouses or domestic partners enrolled in company health benefit plans must pay.

‘‘July 2011 is where this took off and became a bigger issue,’’ attorney Todd Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits practice at McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago, told BNA Nov. 1. ‘‘Before 2010, this was on people’s radar screen as an issue, but nobody was doing it.’’

Today, Solomon said that about 50 companies have adopted policies to provide tax gross-ups to workers to help cover their costs tied to having a same-sex spouse or partner enrolled in the employers’ medical, dental, or vision plans. Grossing up the income of the affected employee involves the employer paying to the worker the approximate amount he or she must pay in taxes for the partner’s coverage.

Citing information from the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay civil rights organization in Washington, D.C., and a New York Times blog that keeps track of this trend, representatives at consulting firm Marsh & McLennan Companies noted Oct. 31 that employers that provide this benefit include Accenture, American Express, Apple, Cisco Systems Inc., Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, Yale University, and McDermott Will & Emery, among other law firms.

Solomon was scheduled to discuss the ‘‘Life Cycle of Domestic Partner Benefits’’* at the 2012 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, held in Baltimore Oct. 29-Nov. 1, but was unable to attend because of weather conditions on the East Coast.

‘Domestic Partner Tax Equalization.’ During the conference, the Marsh & McLennan representatives announced that the firm will begin providing ‘‘domestic partner tax equalization’’ in January 2013. The benefit will be available to all of the firm’s married lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, they said, as well as those who live in states where they cannot legally marry.

‘‘The biggest issue we had to deal with was cost,’’ said Kathryn Komsa, vice president, chief diversity officer, global human resources, at Marsh & McLennan.

Komsa and her co-presenter, James Campbell, an actuary and partner at Mercer, said during a human resources leadership breakfast at the conference that the average medical plan cost per employee is $9,385, according to Mercer’s 2011 national survey of employer sponsored health plans. Mercer is a Marsh & McLennan subsidiary.

An employer’s expected projected cost of tax equalization is $2,500 to $3,500 per employee, they said, though costs will vary based on an employer’s actual plan costs and coverages included. ‘‘You can design the benefit to manage that cost,’’ Campbell said, noting that there are different ways to do this.

Solomon said that, on average, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender employee will pay $1,069 a year in federal taxes for a same-sex spouse’s benefits, according to HRC data.

‘‘This is primarily an issue of pay equity—equal pay for equal work,’’ he said of the benefits-related tax employees with same-sex partners must pay. ‘‘More and more companies are saying, ‘We don’t like that result.’’’

Reproduced with permission from Human Resources Report, 30 HRR 1202 (Nov. 5, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)

*A recording of “Life Cycle of Domestic Partner Benefits” will be available April 22 as part of Out & Equal University’s Virtual Summit Series bundle, which includes six webinar recordings of the highest rated Workplace Summit workshops. For more information, please contact Q Wilson, Senior Training Associate.

This was an Out & Equal monthly Town Call that was held on March 28, 2013. Information on viewing the archived version is contained in this blog. Out & Equal’s Training Department hosts a free monthly webinar Town Call on a current Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) topic. These calls cover a wide range of issues and are based on feedback we receive from our webinar participants. You can find past Town Calls and register for upcoming Town Calls on our website. Each month we post links to Town Call recordings here once they are done for you to use as a resource and to give you the opportunity to lend your voice to the conversations with comments below.

Moving Forward on the Federal Non-discrimination Act
Thursday, March 28, 2013

Over the past several years, the LGBT community has witnessed some meaningful progress in United States Federal laws and policies. The last US Congress passed hate crime legislation covering both sexual orientation and gender identity, and they repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The current Administration has provided guidance for the inclusion of LGBT citizens on a number of important fronts, and the US Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality of both Proposition 8 and the DOMA in its first time taking on marriage equality cases. A fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, however, has remained out of reach. This panel of experts – featuring Tico Almeida, Executive Director, Freedom to Work; Stacey Long, Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Task Force; and Bill Hendrix, PhD, Business Partner, Coastal States, Dow Agro Sciences LLC – from legislative, activist and corporate arenas discusses the work being done to advance ENDA and why it needs to remain a top priority for the LGBT community as well as the broader business community.

Watch our podcast!
Download the presentation slides [pdf]
Download the audio recording [mp3]

Mark your calendar for our next town call, April 25, 2013. LGBT Parenting: Our Children Speak, with Paul Perry, Zach Wahls, Shirley Edwards, and Chris Crespo. Register now.

Posted by: outandequal | April 2, 2013

Helping ERGs Embrace the B and T – Virtual Summit Series

This was an Out & Equal Virtual Summit held on March 19, 2013. Information on viewing the archived version is contained in this blog.  During the 2012 annual Out & Equal Workplace Summit, we experienced Hurricane Sandy and although over 1400 were able to attend; our featured panel and workshop sessions were disrupted.  Many presenters couldn’t get to the Summit and many who wanted to attend were not able to get to Baltimore and missed the workshops that were held.  We also know that during the Summit, there are many choices and some of the sessions, attendees just couldn’t make it to all the sessions they wanted. Through the Virtual Summit Series, we’re hoping to provide you with another chance to join our workplace equality discussion. Lend your voice to the conversation with the comment box below.

Helping ERGs Embrace the B and T  
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Does your Employee Resource Groups (ERG) alphabet begin with G and end with L? While your ERG may have the best intentions, it could be accidentally excluding others. Even the best ERG can become more inclusive. This workshop – facilitated by Amy Clements, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Brielle Darynn, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Heidi Bruns Green, Chair of Out & Equal’s Bi Advisory Council and Consultant; and Jamison Green, Jamison Green & Associates – will include a forum to share ways to make your ERG more inclusive of sexual and gender diversity while helping to build equality. Greater ERG diversity can help your company attract and retain top talent.

*This link will only be active through April 19, 2013.
After April 19, 2013 the Virtual Summit Series will be available as a bundle through Out & Equal’s Training Department.*
Watch the Podcast!

Posted by: outandequal | April 1, 2013

After Hearing Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court

Marriage Rights are Employee Rights

Oral arguments in the Supreme Court of the United States for both Hollingsworth vs. Perry and United States vs. Windsor have put LGBT rights advocates in the spotlight. While responses from the Supreme Court justices have not lead to any definitive predictions for the outcomes of Hollingsworth or Windsor, we know that history is on the side of equality for all. We also know that marriage rights are employee rights; more than three hundred top corporations and employers agreed with us when we filed an amicus brief in Windsor last month.

Ways to Get Involved

  • Start a conversation. Invite friends, family members, and colleagues to learn about LGBT issues and discuss equality concerns on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Share your story. Write, record, or simply speak out about your experience as LGBT or allied. Paste your story into Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office, and give copies to the important people in your life.
  • Donate. No movement advances without the help of many hands, and whatever you contribute is vital to our success.

With your commitment to support equality, we can maintain the momentum we have gained both in and out of the office.

Posted by: outandequal | March 21, 2013

Poll Suggests LGBT Employees Have Excellent Job Qualifications

CareerLink-Logo---Large---Transparent-BKFormal research suggests that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) employees are a motivated and highly qualified group. Out & Equal’s constituents are that and more. Of course, we’ve always known this, but we want employers to know as well, so Out & Equal’s LGBTCareerLink has been conducting an ongoing, informal poll. Here are a few highlights from our recent results:

Strong work experience with a healthy number of new-comers

  • 51% are managers and senior individual contributors with at least 10 years in their current occupations.
  • 8% are executives.
  • 24% are entry level, no more than three years of professional level work experience.

LGBT workplace equality is a priority

  • 76% place significant importance on an employer’s LGBT-related equality policies and practices when evaluating potential career moves.
  • 40% will not accept a job offer unless they are certain they can be “out” in the workplace and treated equally.
  • 77% are “out” at work to co-workers, managers, executives alike.

Education much higher than the general workforce

  • 89% hold at least a B.A. or B.S. degree.
  • 37% hold advanced degrees, professional degrees and doctorates.

Read the rest of the survey results here.

Have you taken the survey? Add your voice and show employers why you’re an ideal job candidate. While you’re at, you can upload your resume for free to Out & Equal’s LGBTCareerLink, the only online career board specifically for the LGBT community. If you are an employer interested in reaching this quality talent group with your employment brand, check out the opportunities available specifically for you.

Take the Survey Button

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by Rhonda Smith, Reporter, Bloomberg BNA | Erica M. Deuso holds two jobs at Johnson & Johnson: lean deployment analyst for strategic business improvement and gender transition liaison, an unpaid, though equally important, role.

As the liaison, Deuso volunteers as the ‘‘go- between’’ to assist line managers, human resources, and all other employees—about 129,000 worldwide—when a coworker transitions from one gender to another.

Deuso herself underwent a gender transition, with her first day at work as a female on Nov. 1, 2011. ‘‘I facilitate meetings with other people and guide the transitioner through the process,’’ she explained Oct. 31, during the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Baltimore.

‘‘There’s a process you go through in communication, telling other people and working through different problems that arise.’’

Companies such as Boeing and Google have gender transition liaisons, Deuso said. For a majority of employers, however, it is a relatively new concept.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, an organization based in San Francisco that focuses on ending employment discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, sponsored the conference.

Gender Transition Guidelines. Deuso, who is based in Radnor, Pa., is updating Johnson & Johnson’s Workplace Gender Transition Guidelines, a 17-page document that outlines what is involved in the process, what health benefits are available through the company, and definitions of various terms. The guidelines, which have not been released publicly, are geared toward employees who are undergoing a gender transition as well as those who are not, but might have questions.

Jenna R. Cook, a manager in Johnson & Johnson’s regulatory medical writing division, began working at the company in 2005, and decided to transition from male to female in 2009. Cook told a human resources representative about her plan in early 2011.

‘‘My immediate manager, a member of the company’s Gay and Lesbian Organization for Business and Leadership (GLOBAL) affinity group, introduced me to Erica,’’ Cook said during her presentation with Deuso. ‘‘We started following Erica’s transition guidelines.’’

Meetings, Followed by Announcement. After Cook and Deuso met, various meetings took place with other managers at Johnson & Johnson, which operates 250 companies in 57 countries. The company, based in New Brunswick, N.J., makes consumer products, prescription medicines, and medical devices.

‘‘Working with management and HR, plans were made for staged announcements,’’ including to Cook’s colleagues in various countries. With assistance from her managers and HR, Cook made the grand announcement to her immediate co-workers Jan. 25, 2012.

‘‘I introduced myself as being transgendered and then illustrated why I was transitioning,’’ Cook said. ‘‘The response and support I received was unbelievable. I didn’t get chastised—no hate mail or anything.’’

Some of what Deuso and Cook experienced was similar, they said.

‘‘We both started out with HR being our ally,’’ Cook said. ‘‘We both told management long before actually transitioning.’’
But their experiences were not identical.

‘‘I did face a little bit of dissent from people I knew on a casual basis,’’ Deuso said. ‘‘There are three distinct groups: those who immediately accept, those who are indifferent, and those who are against it.’’

Nonetheless, neither Deuso nor Cook seemed to have any regrets.

Deuso noted that New Jersey’s law against employment discrimination includes protection against bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Also, she said, Johnson & Johnson provides transgender employees with comprehensive medical coverage, through Aetna and Cigna, for care related to their transitions.

‘‘Every transition is different and entails different challenges,’’ Deuso said. ‘‘The key to a successful transition is not disrupting the business and keeping your end of the bargain.’’

Also, she said, ‘‘The most important facet to any transition is open, continuous, and visible management support.’’

Reproduced with permission from Human Resources Report, 30 HRR 1202 (Nov. 5, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)

For more resources regarding gender transition in the workplace please check out Out & Equal’s online resource listing and feel free to contact our Training & Professional Development Department.

The Out & Equal Town Call series features guest speakers presenting on current LGBT topics via monthly one hour webinars. They also provide in-depth information on major Out & Equal programs such as the annual Workplace Summit. Each session includes a presentation or discussion on issues faced by LGBT employees, polices, benefits, trends or breaking news. The Town Calls are designed to further the knowledge and tools for Employee/Business Resource Group members, HR Professionals, and Executives as well as meeting the needs of busy working professionals, federal, and non-profit employees. These calls are recorded and can be used at LGBT events and meetings for training within your organization.

Creating a True Rainbow in LGBT ERGs

Originally held February 28th, this Town Call offered a dynamic and interactive exploration of the inclusiveness of our ERGs for People of Color.  We discussed ways to better understand the experiences of LGBT employees who are often underrepresented in many workplaces.  We explored how bias is built into decision-making, and how it often creates blind spots in output and program planning.  Leaders of color – Robin Terrell, JD, MBA; Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale, Principal Consultant at Cook Ross, Inc.; and Kirsten E Macpherson, Project Manager at Boeing – moderated and lead the conversation. With them, we explored how our ERGs can become more inclusive, how to better collaborate with other ERGs within our organizations, and how to look at the role that ERGs can play in the creation of inclusive workplaces.

Watch our podcast!
Download the presentation [PDF]
Download the audio recording [MP3]

Please add your voice to the discussion by commenting below! And access the rest of the Out & Equal Town Call archives on our website.

April Hawkins

April Hawkins

by April Hawkins, Senior Communications Associate | Israel and Palestine pose two very different situations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. Israel’s culture can be extremely conservative, but the law stands firmly on the side of equality: same-sex couples are allowed to adopt, enter into civil marriages, and benefit from the same inheritance rights as heterosexual couples. Transgender and gender non-conforming people serve in the army.

Palestine, on the other hand, is a complex patchwork of legality. In some parts of the Palestinian territories, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is illegal. Palestinian laws are often changing based on the current political situation and the local climate is often informed by shari’a law, a strict legal system based on Qur’anic teachings. Many LGBT people have fled Palestine to find a more accepting environment in Tel Aviv, the gay mecca of the region.

In mid-February, Executive Founding Director Selisse Berry visited with leaders of both Israeli and Palestinian LGBT organizations, including Israel Gay Youth, Hoshen, and the Aswat Group, while participating in a leadership development excursion with a number of women leaders from the USA. Read more about her experience in our monthly newsletter OutLines here.

Posted by: outandequal | February 21, 2013

Who Could Say “No”?

Renee Brown

Renee Brown

by Renee Brown, SVP, Director of Social Media, Wells Fargo and member of Out & Equal’s Board of Directors | I have read about folks who live with clear boundaries in their lives and are able to say “no” to folks asking for their time and help. I happen to NOT be one of those people – and this adds up to both a strength and a weakness for me personally and professionally. When I was asked to serve as the Co-Chair for the 2012 Executive Forum – I don’t think I even asked any questions – I was on board and ready to go! The experience turned out to be as helpful to my professional development as it was helpful to Out & Equal to have Co-Chairs keeping things moving.

I recall two of my favorite moments from the last Executive Forum. Claudia Brind-Woody’s overview of international equality was the most eye-opening learning for me, and I have many times quoted that good work. The Leadership Celebration [now known as Momentum] at the end of the program offered fabulous entertainment and meaningful messages from the likes of Mayor Annise Parker, a true trailblazer.

The benefit to attendees of the Executive Forum is the intimate nature of the gathering of people like you – corporate executives who are out in their workplace. I assume a typical day in your life is to lead an organization, manage change, drive revenue, come out, cut expenses, come out again, and try to balance work and life. And, as you have advanced in your organization the amount of safe colleagues to share experiences with, to vent with, to get advice from dwindles with every step up the corporate ladder, and that circle can be even smaller for LGBT (lesbian,gay, bisexual, and transgender) executives. Organizations will get much more than their money’s worth in sending executives to this forum. It should be thought of as a down payment to the future success of your organization.

After attending the ExFo, I was able to positively impact change in my company related to the tax gross up for domestic partners. Having heard the path other corporations have taken, I helped our PRIDE network advance a proposal that was subsequently announced and will be implemented in January of 2014 – these are real successes driven by the connections made at the ExFo.

For any new ExFo attendees, the best way to prepare is to clear your calendar and plan to be disconnected from work. My first year at the ExFo, I thought I would pop in and out like I often do at larger conferences. Not with the ExFo – it is a small gathering and offers dedicated time for mentoring and deep discussion on issues of importance to you, your companies and your career. So, plan to be totally OOTO and fully engaged! I hope to see new smiling faces this Spring!

Executive Forum takes place April 23-25 in San Francisco at the Four Seasons hotel. ExFo will conclude with Momentum – Out & Equal’s Annual Leadership Celebration. At Out & Equal’s website, you can find more information about how to apply for ExFo and how to nominate your colleagues. The application deadline is March 1st.

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