Starbucks now covers cosmetic surgery for transgender employees
- Starbucks' health plans now offer comprehensive, "inclusive" coverage of healthcare for trans individuals, the company announced, including procedures often tagged as cosmetic and thus not covered, such as breast reduction or augmentation, facial feminization, hair transplants and more.
- To create the new plan, Starbucks worked with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to ensure their benefits reflected the organization's recommended standards of care. Such procedures are often referred to as "top surgery." Gender reassignment surgery ("bottom surgery") has been covered by Starbucks since 2012.
- Procedures considered cosmetic often "aren't optional" for trans people, Jamison Green, former president of WPATH, told Starbucks. Barriers to transition-related healthcare, including a lack of insurance coverage, may play into the high rate of attempted suicide among the trans population, according to a report from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute.
As LGBTQ issues have become more visible and more individuals are willing to come out at work, employers across the country have begun considering how to better accommodate their trans employees. Slightly less than half (46%) of LGBTQ workers in the U.S. say they are "closeted at work," down from 50% in 2008, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The issue isn't exactly cut and dry for employers yet (at least legally). Laws regarding LGBTQ discrimination at work vary widely state by state and even city by city. Some states don't have any laws on the books at all, even while their cities pass ordinances specifically protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. At the federal level, it's even messier. Whether Title VII protects employees from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination is still being decided in the federal appellate courts, which are currently split on the issue with no relief yet in sight from SCOTUS.
Inclusivity, however, can go a long way in finding and retaining talent, and HR will be at the forefront of these efforts. Employers that seek to accommodate trans individuals can start with a simple question: How can we help you?
"This is not a situation where you want to try to plod along and do it on your own. Get educated," Eric B. Meyer, partner at Dilworth Paxson LLP and creator of the Employer Handbook blog, previously told HR Dive. As Starbucks did, creating a truly inclusive experience for members of a minority community relies on talking with people in those communities and asking what can be done to create a better experience for everyone.
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