Fast Company

Google to Increase Pay to Gay Employees to Cover Same-Sex Benefits

We've all heard the stories of Google's extraordinary treatment of its employees--amazing food, tons of time off, great child care--and now you can add one more to the list: equalizing a tax break denied to same-sex couples.

Essentially, under federal law, company-provided health benefits that extend to a domestic partner count as taxable income, whereas if that domestic partner is a legally married spouse, it does not count as taxable income. Same-sex couples end up paying, on average, around $1,069 more per year than married couples. Congress has tried to remedy the problem, but a fix was left out of the healthcare reform bill passed in March.

Some gay Google employees (the New York Times helpfully points out that they self-identify as "Gayglers") brought this disparity to the company's attention, and Google actually decided to do something about it. The company will now pay its employees with same-sex domestic partners covered by Google healthcare a little extra, to make up for that tax. Heterosexual couples don't qualify, since they have the option to get married and keep that extra $1,069 the traditional way. That's not the only change, either; Google took a good look at their policies and made some other adjustments:

 

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 great to see a company do something that doesn't necessarily pay off for them in any immediate way. But the Gayglers are really pleased about the change, and likely even the straight Googlers can feel good that their company responds, even monetarily, to the concerns of its employees. Industry experts think the competitive nature of Silicon Valley might even lead other companies to follow in Google's footsteps.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one--you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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1 Comments

  • Nate O'Shaughnessey

    Surely you can't say that this doesn't pay off for Google in any immediate way. I'm not saying they aren't trying to do something nice for their homosexual employees with domestic partners, but saying it doesn't pay off for Google is a bit of a stretch. ok, rouhgly $1,000 for what, maybe a few hundred employees that might actually claim the benefit increase. So, they pay rouhgly an extra few hunred thousand a year...
    Think how much happier those employees will be for this token of respect.. will they push for that $1,000/year more in their next raise quite as hard? nope, because they're happier employees. It does have an immediate payback. They will work harder, and be more focused and productive if they feel respected as individuals, this helps Google earn that loyalty that will pay off 10 fold. Imagine that, treating your employees with empathy and respect actually can be good for your business... It's not about the money. But the money puts something behing a corporate statement of acceptance...
    I'm not sure what exactly their marketing or their team-building budget is, but I'm guessing this would be a sliver of it. But notice all the good P.R., this article included, and employee loyalty that comes from it? you can't buy that kind of publicity. ...Or can you? I'm sure that some or many of the Google execs meant well with the policy, but to say they don't benefit is not entirely true...
    Legal marriage isn't all tax deductions and freedom, taking money from everyone else. There are many legal liabilities and obligations that come with it, this particular tid bit of beuracracy might be unfair, but it does go both ways. For instance, if i work and make a decent living, then my wife, who makes no income but raises our young children, cannot collect wellfare, qualify for more education assistance, and many other things like that. Plus, I am liable for many of her financial and legal actions as well since we are married, that i would not be if we just lived together.

    This is not a message of hate towards homosexual individuals, not in the least.

    I personally think the governemnt has no business in people's marriages at all. It's a personal and religious thing, and if that's part of a person's personal and religious beliefs to have a same-sex marriage partner, then so be it, it shouldn't be any business of the governemnt anyway. Marriage is a vow to be with someone, to love and cherish them as long as you both shall live.. etc. If that's what your vow to each other is, than you can call it marriage if you want. My religious beliefs shouldn't dictate the meaning of the word for you. The problem comes when the government tries to get involved in religious matters.

    any other google employees that may claim it is unfair, that it will burden the company. Think how much more productive your fellow employees will be, and how much more pleasant they will be to be around when they feel respected by their company...
    In the end, Idon't think it was an act of sheer compassion by Google. But it was a good business decision, and nobody was hurt by it. To So Kudos for them. yup, i just used the word Kudos in 2010.