AT&T named best company for LGBT employees

AT&T logoIt’s not often that Texas ranks at the top of the heap for anything LGBT, but DiversityInc named Dallas-based AT&T as the best company for LGBT employees.

AT&T was cited as the first company to oppose anti-gay policies at the Sochi Olympics and for its efforts opposing Arizona’s anti-gay law that was vetoed in February.

To compile the list, DiversityInc “looked at best practices that create an inclusive workplace for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) employees as well as relationships with LGBT nonprofits and public advocacy of inclusiveness, such as support for same-gender marriage and public statements opposing homophobic actions.”

Those best practices include:

• Whether the company has an active LGBT employee resource group
• Percentage of philanthropic endeavors aimed at LGBT nonprofits
• Whether the company attempts to track the number of LGBT people in the workplace, including voluntary disclosure
• Whether the corporate website features images and text of LGBT employees, customers or vendors
• Whether the company certifies LGBT vendors with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
• Percentage of procurement spent with certified LGBT vendors

Here are the top 10 companies for LGBT employees:

1. AT&T
2. Wells Fargo
3. MassMutual Financial Group
4. Time Warner
5. Eli Lilly and Company
6. EY
7. KPMG
8. Target
9. IBM
10. Aetna

Several of those companies, such as MassMutual, KPMG and EY, have offices in Dallas.

—  David Taffet

Dallas police seek info about robbery at Wells Fargo on Oak Lawn

Dallas police are searching for information about a robbery at the Wells Fargo bank on Oak Lawn Avenue on Thursday morning.

A black man walked into the Wells Fargo at 3927 Oak Lawn Ave. at 9:16 a.m. Thursday, according to a Dallas incident report.

Dallas police spokesman Sr. Cpl. Ashaki Hardeman sent out an email explaining that the man, who has not been identified, “walked inside the bank and showed one of the managers his cell phone which had a ransom note on it. The suspect was able to leave with a large sum of cash.”

No one was injured. A description of the suspect has not been released, but the suspect left in a baby blue Cadillac, according to the incident report.

Anyone with information about this incident should contact Dallas police at at 314-671-3001. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 214-373-8477 or through the department’s iWatch smartphone app.

—  Dallasvoice

Business Briefs: AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

Mark Sadlek

AssociaTitle announced it appointed Mark J. Sadlek director of business development at its corporate headquarters in the heart of Uptown Dallas at Crescent Court.

“We are thrilled to be adding Mark Sadlek to the AssociaTitle team,” said AssociaTitle President Paul Reyes. “He is a seasoned real estate professional in the Dallas area with a track record of proven success and will serve both our clients and our company well.”

Sadlek joins AssociaTitle from Republic Title of Texas, where he served as vice president of business development and director of coaching services. He worked to build and promote the company externally with Realtors, developers and lenders. His focus also included business coaching and training.

He has also served as vice president of business development for American Title and as home mortgage consultant for Shelter Mortgage & Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Previous to his work in the North Dallas real estate industry, Sadlek worked in marketing and sales for almost 20 years and was intimately involved in the start-up of two companies, VerCeram and Velux-America.

For the past nine years, Sadlek has worked in the North Dallas real estate industry, building positive relationships with local Realtors and lenders. He was awarded the 2010 Affiliate of the Year Award from MetroTex Association of Realtors, served on the MetroTex Board as an affiliate appointee board member, and chaired the Affiliate Forum Committee of MetroTex.

He was a co-founder and co-chair of Leadership Lambda Inc., an LGBT leadership development organization. He was also a board member of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) and has chaired the Heart Strings Fundraiser at the Majestic Theatre. Additionally, Sadlek served on the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, as well as a co-chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Club.

Ernst & Young Announces Gross Up for Jan. 1

On Jan. 1, Ernst & Young joined more than 30 major U.S. employers that are equalizing the pay for gay and lesbian employees by covering the cost of state and federal taxes for domestic partners.

Employees enrolled in domestic partner benefits incur additional taxes as the value of those benefits is treated as taxable income under federal law, while the value of opposite-sex spousal benefits is not.

Federal law treats domestic partner benefits differently from federally-recognized spousal benefits.

—  David Taffet

OUT & EQUAL: By the numbers

Northrup Grumman CEO Wes Bush announcing a $20,000 gift to Youth First Texas. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Out & Equal Workplace Summit held Oct. 22-25 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel broke records.

Justin Tanis, director of communications for the organization, reported that 2,623 people registered for the conference, which was a record. Participants came from 30 countries.

“The summit overall raised $2.5 million,” Tanis said.

That total includes corporate sponsorships, registrations, merchandise sales and auctions.

At the Thursday night gala, live and silent auctions raised $74,660 that will benefit the Out & Equal Scholarship Fund for LGBT students. In addition, Northrup Grumman gave Youth First Texas a check for $20,000.

According to Cordey Lash, Hilton Anatole’s senior sales manager — multicultural, the conference had a $3 million impact on the hotel. That number includes just under 6,000 room-nights sold, as well as food and beverage sales.

Because the hotel was sold out for three nights of the conference, the impact to Dallas was even greater. Three surrounding hotels also sold hundreds of additional room-nights.

Thursday night’s gala attracted 2,800 people, one of the largest seated dinners at the hotel since the Black Tie Dinner moved from the hotel.

“It was one of the most impactful conferences of the year,” Lash said.

—  David Taffet

TCU hosts LGBT leadership conference

Students from other area schools will gather for workshops and speakers on Fort Worth campus

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

This weekend, Texas Christian University is hosting an LGBT leadership conference that started out as a response to bullying and bullying-related suicides, organizer Jamal King said.

Last fall, as news spread about the large number of gay teens who took their own lives in a short period of time, the TCU gay-straight alliance held a candlelight vigil on campus.

But King said they felt it wasn’t enough. “[We felt] there must be something more we could do,” he said.

In November, the GSA invited a speaker from the Trevor Project to come to campus in the spring. That speaking engagement quickly evolved into an all-day conference.
King said there was an overwhelming response, not only from his own campus but also from Texas Wesleyan University and University of Texas at Arlington. Students from campuses around the state and Oklahoma have registered.

In addition to the speaker from the Trevor Project, representatives from Youth First Texas, the AIDS Outreach Center, QCinema, PFLAG, GLSEN, Dallas Voice and Pride in the Truth, a religious group founded by members of LGBT-friendly Crossroads Community Church, will participate. “We had a surprising amount of support from the faculty and staff,” King said.

He was also happy with the corporate support the project received. Pepsico and Wells Fargo are the event’s main sponsors. Z’s Café, located at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center and formed in partnership with Samaritan House, will provide lunch.

Eric Russell is a junior at TCU and vice president of the GSA. He is coordinating committees from check-in to food, entertainment and programming. “It surprised me how quickly we did this,” Russell said.

Russell said he knew they were on the right track when he heard from a psych professor that she was letting all of her students know about the conference. He said the diversity and acceptance on the TCU campus has surprised him.

Amanda Moten is president of her GSA at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, and she said she is “expecting to learn a lot” at the day-long conference.

She said that she’s been encouraging people from her campus and others in the area to attend. She said she’s been a member of a GSA since she was in high school and has opened her school’s group up as a safe space for high school students who don’t have a place in their own school. “People can come and talk,” she said. “No matter what other people have told you that you are, you’re accepted here.”

Moten said she is helping sponsor high school students who cannot afford to attend the conference. She also commented on the relationship her group has developed with TCU’s. “I love that our GSAs are becoming BFFs,” she said.

King said that it was important for TCU’s GSA to become more visible on campus. He said he hopes that students just coming to terms with coming out would be helped by just knowing the LGBT leadership conference was taking place on campus and that they are not alone.

The conference begins with a kick-off party on Friday, March 4, at 7 p.m. The $20 registration fee for the Saturday conference includes lunch. The party and conference will be held in TCU’s Brown Lupton University Union.

To register or for more information, contact gsa.tcu@gmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

More companies covering transgender surgery

List expected to grow as HRC adds benefit to Corporate Equality Index

LISA LEFF | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — When Gina Duncan decided to undergo the medical treatment that would make her a woman, she had plenty to fear. The reactions of her children, her professional colleagues and friends. How her body would respond to hours on the operating table. If, at the end of it, she would look female enough so strangers wouldn’t gawk.

What the Orlando mortgage banker didn’t have to be anxious about was how she would pay for two of her surgeries. Her employer of 10 years, Wells Fargo, included breast augmentation and genital reconstruction as coverable expenses under its employee health plan. Duncan was told the San Francisco-based bank already had had 16 other employees transition to new genders and assigned a benefits specialist to walk her through the process.

“They had a template in place, and it was surprisingly supporting and mentally encouraging,” said Duncan, 55, who four years later still works for Wells Fargo. “So much of what I’d heard involved people who ended up losing their job, losing their family, losing their friends, becoming destitute.”

With little fanfare, more and more large corporations, including Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup and Walt Disney, have expanded their insurance coverage to meet the needs of transgender workers. The trend follows a concerted push by transgender rights advocates to get employers and insurers to see sex reassignment the way the American Medical Association does — as a medically indicated rather than an optional procedure.

“We understand people simply get appendicitis, and it is something our community deals with through insurance,” said Andre Wilson, who counsels companies on transgender issues as a senior consultant with San Francisco-based Jamison Green & Associates. “That’s what we need to understand about transsexualism. Not everybody will be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, and in fact, few people will be. But the people who are diagnosed with it really need treatment.”

Among the corporations providing transgender-inclusive health benefits are some leading Wall Street and Main Street brands.

American Express, Kraft Foods, AT&T, Yahoo!, Eastman Kodak, Sears, Morgan Stanley, Price Waterhouse, General Motors and State Farm are among 85 large businesses and law firms that cover the cost of at least one surgery, according to a 2010 survey by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights group.

The number is expected to spike this year, when HRC adds availability of surgery-inclusive medical benefits for transgender employees or transgender dependents to the criteria in its annual corporate diversity report card.

To maintain the coveted 100 percent rating when the next Corporate Equality Index is published in the fall, companies will have to offer at least one insurance plan that covers at least $75,000 worth of surgery and other treatments recommended by a patient’s doctor.

“A lot of people are pretty surprised that alongside the cosmetic and experimental treatments that are excluded from mainstream plans, you can see very broad exclusions related to transgender care,” said Deena Fidas, associate director of HRC’s Workplace Project. “In raising the bar…we are addressing the root cause of the problem.”

Stephanie Battaglino, an assistant vice president at New York Life Insurance, has been working with a senior executive at her company to add transgender health benefits to the employee insurance plan. Battaglino, 52, started her transition five years ago, becoming the first New York Life employee to do so openly. To finance her surgeries, which were on a list of procedures not covered by insurance, she borrowed from her retirement account.

“I’ve often said to friends, ‘My transition at work went really, really smoothly, and if I had to do it again, the only thing I would change would be if I had my surgery covered,”’ she said. “To know it was covered and completely reimbursed would have cast everything in a much different light.”

New York Life has been open to the changes and expects to have the expanded coverage in place soon, Battaglino said. But that doesn’t mean the learning curve has been easy to negotiate.

The company initially was uncomfortable agreeing to $75,000 of allowable coverage, she said. But she said that concern was alleviated when it was explained that only two or three employees would likely need the benefits.

“The big misconception is we are going to go broke and all these transgender people are going to come out of the woodwork asking for gender reassignment surgery,” she said.

Some businesses see covering the cost of transgender surgery as not only an important human resources statement, but good business sense.

“Wells Fargo elected to offer this benefit to be competitive as an employer and also to support our comprehensive corporate commitment to diversity,” company spokesman Mary Eshet said.

Joanne Herman, the author of Transgender Explained For Those Who Are Not, said both corporate America and insurers need to understand that genital surgery is not the be-all and end-all in making a person’s appearance match the way he or she feels inside.

For men becoming women, undergoing facial reconstruction may be even more important because it will affect how they are perceived and treated in public, Herman said. The same is true for female-to-male transsexuals and breast surgery. Yet standard insurance plans typically dismiss both as cosmetic, even though people with untreated Gender Identity Disorder are at high risk of suicide and those who get treatment become better workers.

“If you are transsexual, living as anything other than that is a very bleak experience. It’s amazing how much happier I am, how much more productive, social and involved I am as Joanne,” she said.

—  John Wright

Financial planner offers special advice for special circumstances

Wells Fargo financial planner helps same-sex couples navigate complicated situations that come with not being federally recognized

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

After recognizing the need for certified financial planners specializing in same-sex couples, officials with Wells Fargo approached the College for Financial Planning. In 2010, the designation was established and for now Wells Fargo Advisors has an exclusive on planners who are accredited domestic partner advisors.

Terry Thompkins is one of just six accredited domestic partner advisors in the Dallas area.

“It’s no coincidence the bank’s based in San Francisco,” Thompkins said.

Thompkins first recognized the need when he was working with two widows who chose not to remarry, primarily for pension reasons.

“I quickly realized that here’s a community that’s horribly underserved,” he said.

On Feb. 1, Thompkins is offering a financial planning seminar for same-sex couples. He said he had nothing to sell but is looking for couples that would benefit from working with him.

“I’m looking to establish long-term relationships,” Thompkins said, adding that he is as interested in younger couples beginning to build their wealth as in established couples with multi-million dollar portfolios.

“Anyone who is not recognized by the federal government creates challenges, and nightmare scenarios can develop,” Thompkins said.

That creates tax issues but can also present tax opportunities, he said. Having accounts structured properly as well as having legal paperwork in place can prevent families from challenging wills and estates after a partner dies.

“That’s so important when someone is also dealing with their grief,” Thompkins said.

He said a common problem he faces with couples is when one is an aggressive investor and the other is conservative. In that case, Thompkins must form an investment strategy that allows that two portfolios to work together.

Thompkins said clients do not come to him because they need a stockbroker. He said he has a wide range of investment vehicles from traditional banking products to commodities and futures. “I have a huge pallet available to me,” he said.

He said that for a couple with a small business, he can talk to the bank’s commercial lending group and the small business group.

When those don’t work, he can access tools like collateralizing existing assets.

But he said that shouldn’t scare off couples with fewer assets. He not only wants to help couples make a strong plan stronger. Young couples should get on the right track and build huge wealth down the road.

Financial Planning Seminar at Chocolate Secrets, 3926 Oak Lawn Ave. Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. 972-728-3110. Reservations required.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright