AKRON, Ohio — The city of Akron has taken proactive steps to create an inclusive environment for its employees. 

What You Need To Know

  • The city of Akron has added gender-affirming surgical care to the employee benefits plan

  • They hope to create an open and affirming environment for all employees

  • Akron scored a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index

In July, the city added gender-affirming surgery to its benefit plan. 

Yamini Adkins, Director of Human Resources for the city of Akron, said for several years, the city offered hormonal therapy benefits, and now, the medical plan offers coverage for surgical treatments for gender affirmation for both employees and their dependents.

“We want to support people coming in and being who they are and being their true selves that is really important to us” Adkins said. "We don’t want to be creating barriers for people wanting to come here to the city to work, and we recognize that this is something that is very important to our employees now.” 

Beau Shaniuk is a board member for the Gay Community Endowment Fund in Akron, an organization that focuses on bettering the lives of those in the LGBTQ community in Akron. 

He said he’s excited to see the city take the steps it has. 

“I think a lot of cis-folks don’t realize that, that GCS is so important and can quite literally save someone's mental health and their life,” Shaniuk said. 

He said he knows firsthand how important gender-affirming surgery is, but he also knows how expensive it is and said, for some, the cost of the surgery might be out of reach, which is why he’s excited to see more employers add it to their list of benefits.

“Tens of thousands of dollars depending on if you have insurance or don’t have insurance,” Shaniuk said of the cost of gender-affirming surgery. 

Shaniuk hopes more companies will follow in Akron’s footsteps.

“I hope that every employer offers a safe and affirming space for trans and non-binary folks,” he said. “Whether that is with providing surgeries or tacking on your pronouns to the end of an email, giving pronoun pins, being outspoken about trans rights, I hope that all employers incorporate into their policies and into their work environments.” 

Additionally, Akron scored a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Municipal Equality Index (MEI) Scorecard for 2021, the nation's only rating system of LGBTQ+ inclusion in municipal law and policy.

The score looks at employment practices, laws, services, law enforcement and leadership.

The city isn't sure how many people will take advantage of the new benefit, but said the impact on the cost of the health care plan is minimal. 

“It just really shows that the work that everyone put into this, and the research that was done, I think it is really going to pay off,” Adkins said.​