Corporate Equality Index: Why the Criteria Change

The Corporate Equality Index serves as a road map to corporate diversity leaders to help them stay on top of the evolving field of policies and practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer workers. The HRC Foundation is committed to staying ahead of the curve on LGBTQ+ diversity initiatives by incrementally raising the bar on the criteria that are factored into the Index and providing the tools for employers to meet them.

History of the Corporate Equality Index Criteria

In 2002, the first CEI rated employers strictly on seven criteria, which remain the basis for today’s criteria. The original criteria were guided in part by the Equality Principles, 10 touch points for businesses demonstrating their commitment to equal treatment of employees, consumers and investors, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Just 13 businesses received perfect ratings in that first year; by 2005, more than 100 businesses had achieved perfect ratings, with many establishing the next best practices such as spousal-equivalent domestic partner benefits and comprehensive insurance coverage for transgender employees.

In 2004, the HRC Foundation rolled out the second version of the CEI criteria, with greater weight given to comprehensive domestic partner benefits and to transgender inclusion; these criteria went into effect in 2006 will remain in effect through 2010 (for the CEI 2011 report).

In 2009, the HRC Foundation rolled out the third version of the CEI criteria, with comprehensive requirements for partner benefits, transgender-inclusive benefits, organizational competency on LGBTQ+ issues and external engagement with the LGBTQ+ community; these criteria went into effect in 2011 (for the CEI 2012 report).

In 2013, the HRC Foundation rolled out the fourth, and current, version of the CEI criteria, requiring the following standards be met by each employer in order to achieve a perfect score: have sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination protections explicitly included in all operations, both within the U.S. and extending to global operations; requiring all U.S. contractors to abide by companies' existing inclusive non-discrimination policies; and implementation of internal requirements prohibiting company/law firm philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; these criteria went into effect in 2015 (for the CEI 2016 report).

Principles of the Corporate Equality Index Criteria

  • Rigorous and fair
    • incorporate current best and leading practices achievable by any employer that can participate (500 or more full-time U.S. employees)
    • recognize the diversity of U.S. employers, both globally and domestically (e.g.: consumer- vs. business-focused)
    • are implementable via existing templates, guidelines and other resources.
    • focus purely on the current and future policies and practices the employer controls (e.g.: no public sector employers)
    • measure parity: require businesses to provide equal benefits to LGBTQ+ employees and their families rather than penalizing businesses that if they do not offer certain benefits to any employees.
  • Transparent, objective and comparable
    • are quantitatively measurable (i.e.: translate into an objective question on the CEI survey, which directly translate into the CEI criteria)
    • are inclusive of U.S. policies and practices, both in their domestic and global operations
  • Consistent and reliable
    • are not a moving target (ratings can typically be compared from year to year), but new questions and practices are introduced (via CEI survey/report)
    • provide at least 12 months' notice of any changes (criteria must be achieved when surveys are due – benefits changes may go into effect by open enrollment of the following year due to their annual nature)

Capturing Emerging Best Practices

The Corporate Equality Index survey has always included a number of indicators of LGBTQ+ workplace equality that are not included in the criteria; these are certainly items we might consider including in future criteria, but many are for simply for informational purposes as we gauge best practices among large employers.