Google announced Friday that it will significantly increase health coverage for its U.S. transgender employees. The company, with its longstanding history of supporting equality, recognizes the need for broad-based coverage that includes all employees regardless of gender identity or expression.
This extraordinary move, effective immediately, more than doubles transgender health care benefits from $35,000 to $75,000, and makes Google a model for corporate responsibility in terms of transgender health care. Along with this increase in dollar amount, the new health plan covers surgery, including facial feminization for transgender women and pectoral implants for transgender men and more, and other transition-related medical services or treatments.
Sarah Stuart, program manager of Google’s global diversity and inclusion program, explains the climate at Google: “We're always looking for new ways to create a more inclusive culture and support our employees. The decision to improve our benefits for our LGBT employees started as a grassroots effort driven by the Gayglers [an affectionate term referring to LGBT employee groups within the company], who worked closely with our benefits team.”
This progressive action comes as no surprise to those familiar with Google’s dedication to diversity and equality. In a recent company blog on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Google wrote: “We’re fortunate here at Google, where there are LGB and T people at all levels of the company, thanks to enlightened hiring and promotion practices that set aside sexual orientation or gender presentation. Ultimately, Google fosters a workplace where everyone has the ability to be themselves at work. For transgender employees in particular, that means everything.”
Unfortunately, not all companies recognize and celebrate the diversity of its employees. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for 2011 (the new index for 2012 will be released in the next coming weeks), only 18% of the major companies reported offered health benefit to transgender employees for surgical procedures. Only 27% offer compensation for medical visits and lab procedures related to hormone therapy. Many corporate organizations continue to fail to recognize the transgender community in terms of medical need.
Because of these discrepancies in health care inclusion, we must be certain that while we applaud Google on its progressive efforts, we hope all companies will follow suit. Health benefits are needed by all employees in our workforce. GLAAD urges media to highlight the need for transgender- inclusive health benefits when covering this story. We congratulate Google for its recent move, and we encourage other like-minded companies to include the transgender community in its health policies and to remember the healthcare disparities faced by the transgender community.