Google offers benefit to ensure same-sex couple parity

Google has instituted a policy to ensure parity in insurance costs for gay employees in a domestic partnership, but not surprisingly, the benefit has caused mixed reactions.

While the policy seems to merely ensure Google workers aren’t out of pocket just because they’re gay, Fox News viewed the move through a critical lens:

In other words, the company will be paying homosexual employees who include domestic partners on their health insurance plans more money to make up for the federal taxes they pay on that benefit. (Married couples don’t have to pay taxes on spousal health benefits.)

But under Google’s new policy, the company isn’t offering any extra pay to heterosexual domestic partners, because it says heterosexual employees have the option of avoiding the tax by getting married.

The Fox News piece goes on to quote gay rights opponents Focus on the Family, who naturally disagree with the benefit:

“If Google wants to be truly fair to its employees, it should consider extra compensation to married heterosexuals who are bitten every April 15 by the marriage-penalty tax,” spokesman Gary Schneeberger told FoxNews.com. “How is offering more money to only one group to offset a perceived inequity not a form of discrimination against those groups not fortunate enough to receive such bonuses?”

According to the New York Times, domestic partners pay on average over $1,000 more per year for the same benefit open to married couples. Although it’s easy to complain that the policy discriminates against co-habitating heterosexuals, gay couples do not have the right to marry in most places in the US. The Times quoted Google’s VP for “people operations,” Laszlo Bock, on the company’s efforts to put gay employees on equal footing with their straight counterparts:

“We said, ‘You’re right, that doesn’t seem fair,’ so we looked into it,” Mr. Bock said. “From that initial suggestion, we said, let’s take a look at all the benefits we offer and see if we are being truly fair across the board.” As a result, the company also decided to make a few other changes that would help gay employees, including eliminating a one-year waiting period before qualifying for infertility benefits and including domestic partners in its family leave policy — going beyond the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks’ leave in a one-year period to recover from a medical condition or to care for a relative.

It’s not clear exactly how many Google employees will benefit from the policy change, but an internal gay and lesbian group- who call themselves the “Gayglers”- has about 700 members.

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