Employer and union agree to provide equal employment benefits in response to complaint by same-sex married couple

by | Aug 18, 2015 | 0 comments

MADISON – Last month, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the ACLU LGBT and HIV project filed a discrimination complaint on behalf of a married same-sex couple against one spouse’s employer, union, and health insurance provider, because they denied the couple marital health benefits.

The couple, Eric Proces and Kevin Raduka, were married in June 2014, and requested in December 2014 that Kevin be added to Eric’s insurance, which is provided jointly by Eric’s union and employer. They received a denial letter saying that the insurance plan defined an eligible dependent spouse as “the Participant’s spouse of the opposite sex, pursuant to the legal marriage of one man and one woman.”

After a series of internal appeals to the insurer were denied, the ACLU assisted the couple in filing a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the denial of benefits to same-sex spouses violated of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, which prohibit discrimination in employment.

“Health insurance is a benefit all workers deserve. If an employer gives it to some legally married couples, they should give it to all legally married couples equally. Why should our marriage be treated any differently?” asked Eric.

Eric received word last week that his husband will now be covered under his insurance.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said, “We’ve celebrated the momentum on marriage equality, but until private employers and others offer same-sex couples the same benefits and services they provide to different-sex couples our fight is not over.  This success helps move the cause forward.”  Dupuis noted that a recent EEOC ruling that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of prohibited sex discrimination should make clear to other employers and unions that they must treat their married gay and lesbian workers the same as they treat married heterosexual workers.

The ACLU has heard from several same-sex couples in Wisconsin and other states whose employers have denied them spousal insurance even though different-sex spouses are provided insurance.  In addition to filing discrimination charges such as this one, the ACLU’s work to end discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBT individuals includes fighting for passage of the federal Equality Act, which will expressly prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, and by organizations using federal funds.

The ACLU of Wisconsin is a non-profit, non-partisan, private organization whose 7,000 members support its efforts to defend the civil rights and liberties of all Wisconsin residents. For more on the ACLU of Wisconsin, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison.

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