While reviewing the benefits policies due to recent changes in medical
providers covered by PacifiCare, I came across an obvious form of
discrimination by UCAR. In the Eligibility Requirements section for each
plan, domestic partners of the opposite sex are being discriminated
against. The policy in question is in the UCAR Benefits Manual, under
Section 1 (Eligibility Requirements), part B.4 (Dependent/Domestic Partner),
for each medical plan.
I am not talking about persons of the opposite gender just living together
for short periods of time, but for committed couples of the opposite gender
in the same type of long-term relationship as called out for couples of the
same gender in this policy. I imagine this would be for couples who may
meet the Colorado common-law marriage requirements in every way except for
having presented themselves as husband and wife in public.
In the light of the information presented at the mandatory sexual
harassment training session, [we know that] discrimination on the basis of
gender is strictly prohibited by federal law. How does UCAR propose to
remedy this inequity?
Answered on December 19, 2001
UCAR policy does not discriminate against couples of the opposite gender
who live together under the conditions you describe. In fact, under these
conditions couples of the opposite gender have the same rights as couples
of the same gender.
UCAR has accepted common-law marriage as the basis for the coverage of
spouses under the medical plan for a number of years. This provides
coverage for individuals who are in opposite-gender, long-term
relationships covered by the legal definition of common-law marriage in the
State of Colorado. This definition excludes same-gender marriages.
Employees in same-gender relationships cannot legally declare they have a
common-law marriage under Colorado law.
In 1996 UCAR initiated changes to provide coverage for same-gender
relationships that are consistent with the elements of common-law
marriages. This was done to provide comparable access to medical coverage
regardless of gender. UCAR's medical coverage providers (Kaiser and
PacifiCare) were consulted to determine the acceptable provisions of such
relationships for insurance purposes. These provisions are published in
each medical summary plan description.
Employees in long-term opposite-gender relationships may sign an affidavit
certifying they have a common-law spouse, and that spouse will then be
eligible for coverage under UCAR's medical plans. Employees in long-term
same-gender relationships may sign an affidavit certifying they have a
domestic partner, and that partner will then be eligible for coverage under
UCAR's medical plans. In both cases, the partner or spouse must also sign
the affidavit. Thus the requirements for obtaining insurance for couples of
the same or opposite gender are the same, allowing for Colorado law. Copies
of the affidavit are readily available in Human Resources.
If same-gender relationships were allowed under the legal definition of
common-law marriages in the future, I would expect the separate provision
for domestic partner coverage to be eliminated.
-Bob Roesch, Director, Human Resources