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Biogen Idec to offset tax burden for workers in same-sex relationships

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Biogen Idec ($BIIB) is reaching into its own pocket to make up for a federal tax that hits its gay employees, The Boston Globe reported. Next year the biotech giant is expected to start padding the pay of homosexual staffers who are taxed, unlike their heterosexual coworkers, on health-insurance contributions for their spouses.

The Weston, MA-based company's plan benefits gay employees who would otherwise make thousands of dollars less than their colleagues because federal law fails to recognize same-sex marriages like some states such as Massachusetts. Yet it also makes business sense as the biotech aims to retain highly skilled employees such as Amit Rakhit, a vice president working an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) drug program at Biogen.

Biogen wants to pioneer new therapies against ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, and it's one of the areas where the company could have a major impact for patients and its bottom line because there are no good treatments for the neurodegenerative disorder. Like any successful R&D effort, Biogen's ALS program will require the talents of many intelligent people regardless of their sexual orientation to be successful. Biogen's lead drug against ALS is in Phase III development and the company last week revealed a plan to invest more than $10 million in its partnerships with academics to study the disease.

"We cannot let our employees go one more year with this additional burden," said Javier Barrientos, director of global inclusion at Biogen, told the Globe. "We're part of the innovation economy, and we're looking for exceptional talent, and exceptional talent comes in all backgrounds."

Adding to the paychecks of the 40 or so of its 4,000 U.S. employees affected by the tax is expected to cost the company about $120,000 next year, according to the newspaper report.

- check out the Globe's article

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