This past week, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released its 2022 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI is a ranking system devised by HRC that purports to rank corporations on the diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ workers, mainly by looking at corporate policy and certain employment practices. Unfortunately, even in its 20th iteration, the CEI falls flat in its stated mission.
Let’s take a look at just one example from this year’s report. The meal delivery service, DoorDash is among the more than 840 corporations deemed one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.” This designation is incredibly misleading and points to problems with the CEI we have been highlighting for years.
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This year, the CEI gave DoorDash a perfect score of 100 based on criteria designed to gauge how DoorDash treats its employees. As of 2021, DoorDash had only approximately 6,000 workers they classified as employees. Then there are the approximately 3 million Dashers who are the public face and main workforce of DoorDash, who are not considered in the CEI because DoorDash doesn’t consider them employees.
DoorDash’s repeated refusal to acknowledge these workers as employees is a topic that is the subject of ongoing litigation. By refusing to classify the largest part of their workforce as employees, DoorDash leaves their Dashers out in the cold when it comes to the LGBTQ policies the CEI considers.
There are also other blind spots that are not addressed by the current CEI criteria.
For example, the CEI does not currently include worker safety as part of its criteria. If a Dasher suffers an injury while delivering for DoorDash, they are likely to have their Worker’s Compensation claim denied because they are labeled independent contractors and not employees, leaving costly legal action as the only option to get any compensation for medical bills or lost wages.
Then there’s healthcare. DoorDash received a perfect score for the LGBTQ-specific health benefits offered to its corporate LGBTQ employees, but those benefits are not offered to the army of Dashers doing the bulk of the work. Why is the CEI indifferent to this?
The CEI also awarded DoorDash points for supporting pro-LGBTQ legislation. Statistics show that 15-43% of LGBTQIA+ workers have been the subject of harassment or discrimination in the workplace. This number jumps to 90% among transgender workers, so it is certainly commendable that DoorDash has publicly stated its support of the Equality Act.
The strength of that support is put to question when DoorDash could instantly provide its 3 million Dashers the same protections its corporate employees enjoy by simply classifying them as what they are – employees. The CEI doesn’t care as long as DoorDash supports pro-equality legislation.
As independent contractors, Dashers are not only denied the protections of DoorDash’s corporate employment policies, but also the protection of federal law. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workplace discrimination is illegal, but this decision only covers employees, not independent contractors. Once again, the CEI looks past the bulk of DoorDash’s workers.
This matters because the CEI helps give DoorDash, and many other corporations, a much bigger rainbow halo than they deserve. If the most likely job an LGBTQ worker is to get from DoorDash is as a Dasher – and since the ratio of Dashers to corporate workers is roughly 500 to 1, that’s pretty much a given – then why does the CEI not consider how these workers are treated as well?
The Corporate Equality Index has the potential to be an invaluable tool to inform LGBTQ workers about potential employers. As it exists today, it only offers a partial – and overly rosy – picture of how major corporations treat their workers.
It’s past time for the CEI to live up to its stated purpose and be a guide for LGBTQ workers to find a good job that will treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. The CEI should paint an accurate picture of the employment practices of the corporations that participate. Today, it does not.
If a company relies heavily on independent contractors and those workers are not offered the same protections as corporate staff, that should be noted and it should be impossible for that corporation to obtain a perfect score, especially when independent contractors outnumber employees 500 to 1.
The CEI should also consider whether a corporation provides a living wage for all its employees in its grading criteria. One study, in January of 2020, showed that Dashers made as little as $1.45 per hour after accounting for expenses. How is this not part of the calculation for naming DoorDash a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” when poverty and low wages are such a huge issue for LGBTQ working people?
A corporation’s practices regarding who it classifies as employees should absolutely be a part of the CEI criteria as well. By classifying workers as independent contractors, DoorDash – and other so-called gig economy employers – avoids employment taxes, healthcare costs, and other expenses by shifting this burden to the workers instead.
Every worker deserves dignity, respect, and a living wage. The CEI cannot be considered a complete and accurate ranking if it ignores the majority of the corporation’s workers and the policies that pertain to them. An overhaul is long overdue.