Legal & Financial

UPS reverses decision on health care benefits for civil union partners in New Jersey.

UPS announced it will offer health care benefits to all civil union partners of hourly employees in New Jersey who are covered under collectively bargained union plans. Management and administrative employees in the state already have such benefits.

Allen Hill, UPS’ senior vice president for human resources said, “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. 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 impossible to know how many of those employees have joined in civil unions. About 5,400 non-union UPS workers in New Jersey already are eligible.

UPS, which has provided same-sex benefits since 2004 to all non-union employees throughout the United States, has been committed to treating all of its hourly employees similarly. But until a new contract is negotiated and implemented with the Teamsters in 2008, the company must follow individual state definitions of “spouse.” In New Jersey, the company has been grappling with the legal question of whether a “civil union” can be equated to “married spouse” when the state’s law does not explicitly use that language.

The extension of benefits is based on discussions and input from state officials, including the attorney general and governor, within the past few days.

UPS intends to address the issue of same-sex benefits for all its hourly workers – no matter where they reside – during negotiations with the Teamsters on a new 2008 contract. Currently, about 85,000 non-hourly workers are eligible for such benefits.