UPS says it will extend healthcare benefits to all civil union partners of hourly employees who are covered under collective bargaining agreements in New Jersey. Management and administrative employees in the state already have such benefits.
The decision comes about 10 days after New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine sent a letter to the UPS urging the company to extend health benefits to the civil union partners of unionized employees.
The company has offered health benefits to non-unionized employees in same-sex relationships since 2004. However, the company says it didn't initially extend the benefits to civil union partners of unionized employees in New Jersey because it was unsure whether the collective bargaining agreement allowed it to do so.
The collective bargaining agreement requires the company to follow individual state definitions of "spouse" for the purpose of offering health benefits. In New Jersey, UPS has been grappling with the legal question of whether a "civil union" can be equated to "married spouse."
"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," says Allen Hill, UPS's senior vice president for human resources. "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. We've heard that loud and clear from state officials and we're happy to make this change."
The extension of benefits to civil union partners of hourly employees in New Jersey will affect approximately 8,700 workers, although it's unknown how many of those employees have joined in civil unions. About 5,400 non-union UPS workers in New Jersey are eligible already.
"We commend UPS for taking this step," says Daryl Herrschaft of the Human Rights Campaign. "We've known all along that UPS wanted to do the right thing. It says a lot about this company's character that it never stopped looking for a way to help these New Jersey employees in an uncertain legal environment."
New Jersey is one of four states offering civil unions to same-sex couples. Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex couples to marry.