Tag Archives: employees

Alaska may add partners as ‘immediate family’

The Alaska State Personnel Board is considering including same-sex partners of state employees in the definition of “immediate family” for purposes of leave.

A proposed change in rules also would allow state employees to take leave due to a serious health condition of a same-sex partner.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Alaska because of a state constitutional amendment. Nancy Sutch, a deputy director within the state Division of Personnel and Labor Relations, said by email that the proposed change in rules stems from a recent review of a 2005 Alaska Supreme Court decision.

That decision, in a case over health insurance and other benefits, found it is unconstitutional to offer valuable benefits to the spouses of public employees but not to same-sex domestic partners.

Sutch said the proposed regulations will set out requirements that are similar to those for insurance coverage, which have been in effect since 2006. Fuller descriptions of the proposed changes were not immediately available.

Same-sex partners of state employees currently can qualify to be on their insurance, provided certain requirements are met. For example, couples must certify, among other things, that they’ve been in committed, exclusive relationships for at least the past year and plan to continue that relationship indefinitely. They also must have lived together for at least a consecutive year and consider themselves to be members of each other’s immediate family.

For purposes of personal leave, though, the current definition of immediate family does not include same-sex partners.

The new proposal comes after attorneys, including those from the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, wrote in June to the commissioners of Corrections and Administration on behalf of a Juneau corrections officer who was seeking to take family leave to care for her partner, who was undergoing cancer treatment in Seattle. Sutch said the review of the court decision was prompted by this case.

She said the board will not be deciding whether same-sex couples are entitled to take leave under the Alaska Family Leave Act but rather deciding on the criteria that same-sex couples must meet to be eligible for leave.

Tom Stenson, legal director for ACLU of Alaska, said Friday that “you don’t have to be a great humanitarian or anything to realize people need support at those times and that is what the law is there to protect. People shouldn’t have to suffer through cancer alone because they’re gay.”

He said there’s often criticism that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people are demanding special rights. But, “this is such a basic human right, to be able to support somebody when they’re getting medical treatment. It’s so fundamental it’s hard for me to see what the counter argument is.”

The personnel board plans to consider the changes at a Sept. 19 meeting in Anchorage.

Groupon says marriage equality is good deal for Illinois

Groupon’s corporate headquarters has released a video promoting marriage equality for Illinois.

LGBT employees and allies at Groupon appear in the video to encourage Illinois lawmakers to vote for legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. The bill has the support of the governor and has been approved by the state Senate but did not get approval in the House. A vote could come this fall.

Groupon workers, in the video, say, “It’s time, Illinois.” 

The company was among the first in the state to sign a letter endorsing SB10, the marriage equality bill.

On the Web…


Whole Foods accused of discriminating against Spanish-speaking employees

The American Civil Liberties Union this week filed complaints against Whole Foods Market with a New Mexico agency for allegedly discriminating against Spanish-speaking employees at an Albuquerque store.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said it filed the complaints with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau on behalf of employees Bryan Baldizan and Lupe Gonzalez.

The employees said last month a Whole Foods store suspended them for a day for complaining about a company policy they say prevented them from speaking Spanish while on the job.

News of the policy sparked outraged from Latino groups nationally and the Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. later revised its employee language rules.

Both employees said they are still prevented from speaking Spanish.

Whole Foods spokeswoman Libba Letton said the company plans to respond directly to the Human Rights Bureau if and when it receives a complaint.

Letton said the company is following through on the rule change to make sure managers and workers at all 352 stores understand the revised guidelines. She added that the company has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination.

Secretary of State Clinton delivering address to LGBT employees

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this afternoon is delivering remarks at the 20th anniversary Celebration of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, the State Department’s officially recognized employee affinity group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees.

Clinton, according to a news release, is responsible for the extension of the full range of benefits to same-sex domestic partners of foreign service members serving overseas. She also instituted the 2010 revision of the department’s equal employment opportunity policy to prohibit discriminatory treatment of employees and job applicants based on gender identity.

Advocating for employees of the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps, the Foreign Agricultural Service, the Foreign Commercial Service, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and all foreign affairs units of the U.S. government, GLIFAA works to ensure full parity for LGBT personnel and their families in U.S. foreign affairs agencies serving both domestically and abroad.

The group began in 1992 to challenge a security clearance process that at the time discriminated against LGBT employees.  GLIFAA has grown since that time to include hundreds of members and associates and become the officially recognized voice of LGBT personnel in U.S. foreign affairs agencies.

Today’s program schedule had Clinton, chief of staff Cheryl Mills, deputy administrator Donald Steinberg, and GLIFAA president Ken Kero-Mentz making remarks. U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, GLIFAA co-founder David Buss and deputy assistant Secretary Daniel Baer also were to participate in the program taking place in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Dining Room until about 4:30 p.m.

Appointee resigns over Arizona governor’s appeal to eliminate partner benefits

A gay man appointed to Arizona’s tourism council has resigned his post. He’s protesting Gov. Jan Brewer’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an injunction blocking the state from eliminating domestic partnership benefits for gay state employees.

Edwin Leslie resigned this week in a two-page letter reported in the Arizona Republic. Leslie, who works in the hospitality industry, said Brewer’s move hurts tourism and stands “in direct conflict with your reiteration that all Americans are entitled to the same ‘inalienable rights.’”

“My decision to resign the tourism council is rooted in the fiber of my conscience,” Leslie wrote. “The LGBT community, of which I am a proud part, deserves all of the same rights, privileges and liberties as every American, be it in domestic partner benefits, adoption, marriage or any other rights that are so freely enjoyed by every other person in the US. It is my hope that one day The State of Arizona leads the nation in extending benefits to LGBT families, allowing same sex marriage and adoption, and show that everyone is welcome in Arizona.”

A spokesman for the governor told the Republic that Leslie’s resignation was regrettable “and it’s even more regrettable that he has opted to politicize that decision in this manner. The governor doesn’t believe in ceding to a federal court the authority of Arizona’s duly elected officials (to make budget decisions).”

The Republican governor is perhaps best known on a national level as the defender of Arizona’s controversial “show me your papers” anti-immigrant law.

Brewer, in an appeal filed on July 2, is asking the High Court to overturn rulings from a trial court and an appeals court that require the state to continue domestic partner benefits to Arizona’s state employees.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is representing Brewer in the push to reverse the rulings.

Lambda Legal has represented the employees defending the partnership benefits and will have until Aug. 6 to respond to the High Court.

The legal battle goes back to at least 2009, when Arizona lawmakers passed a law to strip gay and lesbian employees of domestic partnership benefits.

Lambda, on behalf of 10 employees, sued to block enforcement of the law and argued that if state officials strip domestic partner health benefits from lesbian and gay government workers, they violate the U.S. Constitution.

Lambda filed its suit in November 2009 and a district court judge issued a preliminary injunction in July 2010. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld the injunction in September 2011 and a request from Arizona for a full panel review was denied in April.

This denial is what prompted Arizona to turn to the Supreme Court, which is on summer break.

A court has not offered a final decision on the case.

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