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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 3, 2007

UPS backs down, offers benefits to New Jersey partners

 

Trenton, N.J.--United Parcel Service has made an about-face and will now offer benefits to partners of their employees in civil unions, in New Jersey at least.

The delivery company found itself in hot water last month after denying the benefits to people in New Jersey civil unions, despite offering them to same-sex spouses of employees in Massachusetts, where full same-sex marriage is legal.

“Over the past week, however, we have received clear guidance that at least in New Jersey, the state truly views civil union partners as married,” UPS senior vice president for human resources Allen Hill said in a July 30 statement quoted in the Newark Star Ledger. “We’ve heard that loud and clear from state officials and we’re happy to make this change.”

The company earlier said, in denying the benefits, that the union contract did not allow it to extend the benefits without approval of the union.

“Based on an initial legal review when New Jersey’s law was enacted, it did not appear that a ‘civil union’ and ‘marriage’ were equivalent,” Hill said.

New Jersey’s civil union law took effect in February, and offers all state benefits of marriage. The law does not, however, specifically refer to people in a civil union as “spouses” but as a “partner in a civil union.”

UPS offers domestic partner benefits to its non-union employees, but its Teamsters contract offers benefits only to “spouses” of employees.

“We are pleased to see that UPS has decided to do the right thing in the end and provide benefits to the same-sex civil union partners and families of its employees in New Jersey,” said marriage project director David S. Buckel of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. “UPS is joined by hundreds of employers around the state in hearing that civil unions are different from marriage and that is to be expected when people are given second-class status. The consequences to such ongoing mistakes are severe, and rather than going employer to employer and explaining civil unions one by one, the legislature has a quick fix: allowing same-sex couples to marry.”

Lambda Legal represented same-sex couples in a suit that resulted in the state’s Supreme Court ruling in October 2006 that same-sex couples must have all the rights and protections as married opposite-sex couples. However, the court did not go as far as Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court, which ordered that marriage be opened to same-sex couples.

 

 

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