Columbus, Ohio marketing company Resource backed up their equal opportunity stance with action by supporting the gender transition of one of their creative directors, Decker Moss.
Resource was one of the first in Ohio to offer same-sex partner benefits; and in 2007, CEO Nancy Kramer testified in front of Congress in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA.)
Legally however, Decker Moss was in somewhat murky territory. Transgender status is not explicitly protected under U.S. federal or Ohio anti-discrimination laws, said Jim Petrie, chairman of Bricker & Eckler’s labor & employment practice group.
However, “the U.S. 6th Circuit has held that persons identified as transgendered may be protected under Title VII if the employer discriminates against them based on their inability to conform to sex stereotypes,” Petrie said. “Moreover, a Columbus city ordinance expressly prohibits employers from discriminating against a person because of his/her gender identity or expression.”
Even so, Moss was so apprehensive. As it turned out, Kramer and HR head Jamie Barcelona were prepared to take action.
With help from the Human Rights Campaign, the management at Resource found various workplace issues that they had never considered but which they now would put under the microscope.
The issues included: gender-neutral bathrooms, employee policy language and health-care policies. The company also closely examined the language in its equal-opportunity employment policy and its code of conduct.
“It was already very inclusive,” Barcelona said. “We had sexual orientation (previously covered) but not gender identity or gender expression.” Those areas have since been updated.
Health care was, and remains, the most complicated issue.
“Most insurance coverage considers [SRS] cosmetic surgery,” said Moss.
“We’re in process of finding out what the cost would be [to get transgender-inclusive health-insurance benefits],” Barcelona said. “Will we need a second provider? What are the rules?”
Kramer sent an email to all 400 employees of Resource revealing Moss’ news. The next day, Resource President John Kadlic personally called each one of Moss’ clients to alert them of the change. None of them even blinked an eye, Kramer said.
“If they (did), then I didn’t think they should be our clients,” Kramer said.
The painstaking work by everyone at Resource, the inclusive way they handled the announcement and the company’s willingness to assume the cost of various changes in employee policies has left Moss amazed and impressed.