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All FedEx Employees Finally Get Domestic-Partner Benefits

FedEx will begin offering same-sex domestic-partner/spousal benefits to all of its 200,000-plus employees in the United States in 2012. Although the details are yet to be determined, company spokesperson Sandra Munoz confirmed that every employee domestically will be able to opt in for same-sex domestic-partner/spousal health benefits in the fall of 2011 in order to receive them Jan. 1, 2012.

“It’s very, very exciting!” a longtime FedEx employee told DiversityInc. “I honestly didn’t think this would ever happen.” 

Internal pressure from LGBT and allied employees has prompted the Memphis, Tenn.–based shipping giant to expand its company-wide health-benefits package to include same-sex couples now that the package is up for annual review. “Several of our employees have been asking for the benefit and, because we knew the economy has improved, we’re able to expand our benefits,” said Munoz.

Announced internally at FedEx late last week, the news related to inclusive workplace policies “travels faster than the speed of sound,” Munoz said.

Likewise, the lack of same-sex domestic-partner/spousal benefits can cause a controversy. In 2007, FedEx was pulled from The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity® list for not offering same-sex domestic-partner benefits to everyone on its payroll. Then, in early 2009, when Fortune published its 100 Best Companies to Work For list that incorrectly stated the company offered same-sex domestic-partner benefits to all, the issue cropped up again. In both cases, the publications misunderstood FedEx’s policy on domestic-partner/spousal health benefits because the company only offered them where it was legally required to (in California) and to employees in its FedEx Office division (formerly FedEx Kinkos). Those employees received same-sex domestic-partner health benefits before FedEx purchased Kinkos in 2004.

Once DiversityInc discovered the error, FedEx was cut from the list. To qualify for the DiversityInc Top 50, all companies must offer same-sex domestic-partner/spousal health benefits. But in the case of Fortune’s 2009 100 Best Companies to Work For list, the publisher did not change its list after being informed of the error by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The 2009 list included an ambiguous footnote that set off a negative backlash.

John in Minneapolis wrote on Fortune’s web site last January: “As a five-year employee of FedEx, I strongly agree that it is a great place to work. But Fortune’s choice to indicate that the company offers domestic-partner benefits is a disservice to its readers. Outside of the Office (Kinko’s) division, FedEx only offers domestic-partner benefits where it is compelled to do so by law. To see Fortune give an unequivocal ‘YES’ for covering less than 10% of their workforce is frustrating.”

“The shipping giant was given an unqualified positive for their decision to offer [domestic-partner] benefits for same-sex couples. Only problem? Well, it seems that these benefits aren’t offered to the vast majority of their workforce. The benefits are apparently less on the sweeping side, and more on swept under the rug side,” states a posting on goodasyou.com.

Reality Check

Today, the vast majority of employers offer same-sex domestic-partner benefits, and the cost is minimal. Most companies experience a total financial impact of less than 1 percent of total benefits cost, states HRC, which publishes the annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI). With much to gain and little to lose, inclusive workplace policies are the trend.

  • Ninety-four percent of the companies rated in the 2010 CEI provide domestic-partner health coverage. Of these, 70 percent offer domestic-partner benefits to same- and different-sex employees, a three percentage point increase from the previous year.
  • In 2003, less than half of the Fortune 500 (40 percent) offered same-sex domestic-partner benefits. Five years later, that number jumped to 58 percent, with more than eight out of 10 (83 percent) of the Fortune 100 offering same-sex domestic-partner benefits.
  • Twenty-two states, the District of Columbia and more than 150 local governments make health benefits available to public employees and their same-sex partners, according to HRC.

FedEx earned a score of 70 on the 2010 CEI, losing points for not having same-sex domestic-partner health benefits, among other criteria. Its competitor, UPS, scored 100. So making these benefits available at FedEx 18 months from now—while “certainly seems a little bit longer than it needs to be,” said Daryl Herrschaft, director of the HRC Workplace Project and editor of the CEI—is “still good news. It’s never too late … It’s a giant step forward, and I hope it signals a turn toward addressing equality in their workplace.”

Several years ago, HRC flew nearly a dozen employees (with two from FedEx) to Washington, D.C., for an equal-benefits workshop, a weekend-long training/strategy session on how to advocate for same-sex domestic-partner benefits within an organization.

With the economy on the rebound and the war for talent picking up, companies need to regularly review their benefits packages to ensure they’re inclusive of all employees to retain them.

Organizations such as FedEx would do best by applying benefits offerings equitably and across the entire program, urges Herrschaft, including not only health but retirement/pension, bereavement leave, adoption assistance and more. “There are a host of other issues that FedEx should now turn to in terms of treatment of transgender employees,” suggests Herrschaft.

5 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Forgive me for asking the obvious but, if FedEx is doing this so wilingly why are they waiting until 2012? And, what took them so long? One more reason to use UPS, in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    i am an 8 year employee w/fedex and my partner of 10 years iwill be retiring from fedex on june 30th of this year. I am looking forward to having same sex partner benefits for the both of us. we have enjoyed working for this company and i am looking forward to retiring from fedex and having a wonderful career with this company. Thank you for opening up to the enormous amount of gay and lesbian employees who give to this company everyday our dedication and “Purple Promise”commitment to keep this company GREAT!!!!!
    d

  • Anonymous

    I HAVE WAITED A LONG TIME FOR THIS GREAT NEWS.AND THE TIMING IS PERFECT.

  • i think that same sex domestic partner benifits are great, but what i dont think is great is that they allow that, but they dont allow for benifits for heterosexual dometic partners, my husband and i paid a fortune for health care for me before we got married for that very reason.

  • With all due respect to your relationship. If lesbians and gays were allowed to marry,we wouldnt need domestic partner benefits for same sex partners..

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