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GLAA thanks Washington Gas for domestic partner benefits
GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
February 27, 2007
Mr. William Zeigler, Jr.
Human Resources & Organization Development
6801 Industrial Road
Springfield, Virginia 22151
Dear Mr. Zeigler:
I am writing to thank you for adopting a new domestic partners benefits policy as of January 1.
As we understand it, this new policy allows an employee in a same-sex relationship living in the District of Columbia who has registered their domestic partnership with the District government to receive the same benefits as your married employees do.
Although we regard this new policy as a good-faith beginning, it is not as good as it might be, and we would like to offer a few suggestions for improvement.
First, we would encourage you to broaden the eligibility requirements so that Washington Gas employees living outside the District of Columbia could qualify if they have registered with the District government as domestic partners. The District law specifically allows any couple to register as domestic partners regardless of where they live. We suspect you might not have been aware of that nuance when you adopted your current policy, so we hope you will take another look at this matter in a new light.
Second, we would urge you to allow employees other than those enrolled in PPO programs to qualify. We do not understand why your current policy is restricted to PPO enrollees, although we suspect that enrollment of HMO employees might not be possible under the HMO contracts you currently are operating under. If this is the case, we hope you will be committed to renegotiate this point with your HMOs as present contracts expire.
Third, we would hope that you could include information about your new domestic partners program on your company’s official web site. Our inability to find anything when we searched for the terms “domestic partner” and “civil union” on your web site was one of the factors that misled us into thinking you had not yet taken any steps to remedy the problem. We also hope you are taking steps to publicize the program to all your job applicants.
Unfortunately, we did not see the letter you wrote us on October 20 until last month, and we did not fully understand it until last week.
Last week GLAA Secretary Craig Howell testified before the D.C. Council Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh, in support of Betty Ann Kane’s nomination to the D.C. Public Service Commission. At the end of that testimony, Mr. Howell criticized both your company and PEPCO for their lack of domestic partner programs.
Luckily, Mr. Steven Jumper of your company attended that hearing, and spoke with Mr. Howell afterwards. Mr. Jumper contended that Washington Gas’s new program does indeed cover same-sex couples living in the District who are officially registered as domestic partners. Mr. Howell asked Mr. Jumper to provide the necessary documentation to prove this claim, and Mr. Jumper agreed to do so promptly. Mr. Jumper was as good as his word and sent us the information the very next day.
Since then, we at GLAA have taken the following steps.
- We have written to the PSC officially withdrawing our protest of your company’s proposed rate increase (Formal Case #1054).
- We have written Councilmember Cheh and her colleagues on the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs to amend the record of our testimony last week.
- We have pointed out your adoption of a domestic partners program in Agenda: 2007, the comprehensive issues briefing document we have just mailed to all candidates running in the May 1 special elections.
Copies of all these documents are available on our web site, glaa.org.
We are gratified that Washington Gas has substantially come around on this important application of the principle of equal pay for equal work, and only regret the communications difficulties that kept us from realizing that fact sooner. We regard your adoption of a domestic partners benefits program as a “win-win” for everyone concerned and look forward to its steady improvement.
Barrett L. Brick
Cc: Steven Jumper