New study: requiring equal benefits results in equality at low cost

By |2008-04-01T09:00:00-04:00April 1st, 2008|Uncategorized|

AMHERST, MA – The San Francisco Equal Benefits Ordinance advanced the equal treatment of employees with domestic partners with a minimum of red tape and costs to the city, according to “Contracts with Equality,” an evaluation by the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies (IGLSS). The Equal Benefits Ordinance, a groundbreaking law that went into effect in 1997, requires city contractors to offer equal benefits to employees with domestic partners if the company provides benefits to spouses.
More than 3,000 employers have begun offering domestic partner benefits as a result of the Equal Benefits Ordinance. The report estimates that at least 26,000 additional people have health insurance coverage as a result.
“Many people expected the ordinance to drive up the city’s cost of doing business dramatically, but our analysis suggests that employer costs passed through to the city would rise by no more than 0.02% to 0.12%,” noted Daley Dunham, one of the report’s authors. “Overall, we found no evidence of a large increase in the city’s spending on goods and services.”
The report analyzes several sources of data, including detailed spending data from the San Francisco International Airport before and after implementation of the EBO. Dunham found no evidence of a large increase in costs in the airport data, even in comparison with other airports in the Los Angeles area that did not operate under an EBO requirement. The airport finding suggests that any increase in total city expenditures were not large.
Dr. Marc Rogers, the other author, added, “Increased expenditures are just one side of the equation. The City probably also saved some money due to lower public health expenditures, since more residents got health coverage.”
After the initial passage of the EBO, the City’s Human Rights Commission processed a huge amount of paperwork by streamlining some procedures, and an initial backlog quickly disappeared. Rogers also noted, “San Francisco’s accommodating approach to rules and procedures gave employers and the City the flexibility they needed to comply with the new rules.”
“Other cities considering their own equal benefits ordinances can learn from the San Francisco experience,” suggested Lee Badgett, IGLSS research director. “This report shows that San Francisco has already addressed costly legal and logistical challenges, such as winning victories in court and increasing the number of health insurance plans that will cover partners.”
Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Oakland, and the State of California have passed similar contractor requirements. Atlanta and New York City are also considering such a change.
The Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies is a think tank based in Amherst, Massachusetts. To obtain a copy of this report, visit IGLSS online at

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