Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why it matters: Partner denied family leave

Why does it matter? Because of stories like this one from the Dallas Voice:
Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years. For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.
....Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.
“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.
Our families and our loves are just as important as anyone else's. Except when they aren't.

Update ATT finds a way to fix it. From Towleroad:

"AT&T regrets that there has been confusion over the administration of family leave with respect to registered domestic partners. AT&T has taken steps to ensure that FMLA is extended to employees with registered domestic partners for the purpose of caring for the partner, regardless of the state in which the employee resides. AT&T has a long history of inclusiveness and we embrace and celebrate diversity of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in our workforce."
We'll keep you posted. But this is a good sign: if a major corporation realizes that to screw our families, even in bigoted states, reflects poorly on them...well, that's a good sign. They need our talent and hard work. That means they need to treat us properly.

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