By Terri Eyden
On January 1, 2012, Ernst & Young LLP
and its affiliates joined an increasing number of employers to reimburse lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees for the additional federal and state taxes they incur for their same-sex domestic partners' medical benefits. The extra taxes are mandated, even for married same-sex couples, costing lesbian and gay employees an average of $1,500 in extra taxes annually.
Ernst & Young is the first Big Four accounting firm to offer this perk, underscoring the organization's leadership in LGBT inclusiveness.
"Ernst & Young is committed to providing an equitable workplace for all of our employees, even when it requires action to address an inequality in laws."
"Ernst & Young strives to promote an equitable work culture in every way possible," said Karyn Twaronite, Americas Inclusiveness Officer, Ernst & Young LLP. "Our decision to provide this tax gross-up reinforces our long-standing pledge to foster a work environment that is inclusive for all of our people and signals our ongoing efforts to remain a leader in providing equitable benefits."
When gay employee Bryan Parsons, Associate Director/Americas Quality and Risk Management, Ernst & Young LLP, heard the news, he said, "I was ecstatic and proud . . . being the first of the Big Four accounting firms to implement the gross-up is quite a monumental step." Parsons added that the firm's "tangible commitment directly impacts my happiness and success at the firm."
A January 9, 2012, Ernst & Young press release stated: "As of December 2011, there were only thirty for-profit employers that grossed-up on these benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
, one of the largest civil rights organizations working to achieve LGBT equality in the workplace. Ernst & Young was the first of the Big Four professional services firms to receive a 100 percent rating for corporate equality from the HRC."
The firm has been acknowledged for additional achievements in LGBT inclusiveness. To name a few, Ernst & Young:
- Was the recipient of the Trevor Project's 2020 Award, which recognizes an organization that has supported the LGBT community and has increased the visibility and understanding of LGBT issues.
- Was recognized as the 2011 National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Corporate Partner of the Year for work in supporting LGBT business owners and LGBT supplier diversity.
- Was named one of DiversityInc magazine's Top 50 Companies for Diversity and was on its Top 10 LGBT Employer list for six consecutive years.
When we asked Parsons what he feels is the best part about the new benefit, he said, "For me personally, two things come to mind. . . . First, there's a financial impact for me and my partner, Carlo. That's certainly not insignificant and is a great new perk. Second, I benefit by realizing what this change means to me as an employee. Ernst & Young LLP is offering resources through these tax offsets to help address an inequality that the organization can't directly control since federal and many state laws do not recognize same-sex partnerships – even for couples who are legally married."
Perhaps Parsons summed it up best, saying, "Having my employer 'put its money where its mouth is' certainly is a powerful validation of the organization's commitment to equality."