Spousal Benefits Denied by Private Employer
Karen Hannant and her partner were one of the 300 couples legally married in Michigan on March 21, 2014, when Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional. Hannant’s employer Heritage Academies provides spousal benefits for its married employees, including health insurance coverage. When Hannant requested that her spouse be covered, Heritage told her that they would only recognize marriages between opposite-sex couples.
In March 2015, the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint on behalf of Hannant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), arguing that Heritage’s refusal to provide benefits to Hannant’s spouse was unlawful sex discrimination by an employer in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in June 2015, Heritage agreed to provide benefits to the same-sex spouses of its employees. Following EEOC investigation and mediation, the parties reached a financial settlement in June 2016.
(ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan)