Google Health Benefit Reforms Gross Up LGBT Employees

By July 01, 2010

As a part of its Pride 2010 blog entry today, Google announced several changes to its health benefits policy that will help equalize pay for its LGBT employees. These changes include tax compensation, family and medical leave and

infertility coverage related to same-sex domestic partners.

Current health insurance policy causes domestic partners to be taxed amounts that sometimes exceed one thousand dollars, which heterosexual couples can avoid by getting married. Though several states allow same-sex couples the act of marriage, this institution is not recognized federally, and benefits can be taxed regardless of marital status. A company's practice of increasing pay to compensate for expected status is referred to as "grossing up." As of this month, Google will be grossing-up imputed taxes on health insurance benefits, an amount that can exceed one thousand dollars.

As another equalizing practice, Googlers will be given an equivalent of the Family and Medical Leave Act for domestic partners. This legislation, as explained in the New York Times, requires employers to provide up to twelve weeks' leave "in a one-year period to recover from a medical condition or to care for a relative." The last measure obviates stipulations during the one-year waiting period before couples can be compensated for infertility-related medical costs.

That is a lot of social issues to cover in a tech blog, but the affects of such benefits policy changes can change an industry. Silicon Valley companies often vie for top talent attention, and benefits can easily sway a decision, especially such groundbreaking support for same-sex couples. Since only a few companies gross up employees' pay, bargaining pay-offs are high.

“It could have a ripple effect, prompting other employers, and particularly employers in the same industry, to take a look at their own benefits package and see whether it would be appropriate to extend those benefits,” Kathleen Murray says in the NY Times article. “When you have a high-profile company doing anything, that tends to get into the mind of the culture, and it can have a more diffuse effect.”

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