FedEx's Attempt to Throw Out Lawsuit Over Widow's Pension Benefits Denied


Memphis-based FedEx is being sued by a widow of a long-time employee, after she was denied pension benefits because the two were in a same-sex marriage, and on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton denied the company's attempt to have that lawsuit thrown out.

California woman Stacey Schuett, the widow of 26-year FedEx employee Lesly Taboada-Hall, filed the lawsuit against the company last January after it refused to provide her with federally required spousal pension benefits. Taboada-Hall had been the family breadwinner and supported Schuett and their two children, but she passed away in June 2013 after a battle with uterine cancer.

FedEx's pension plan was designed when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was still the law of the land, but DOMA was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor on June 26, 2013.

The federal court on Monday ruled that “following Windsor … ERISA plans, by definition, must treat couples in same-sex marriages as married for purposes of spousal benefits prescribed under ERISA, such as survivor benefits."

FedEx scored an 85 out of 100 on the 2015 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. It failed to reach 100 due to its lack of transgender healthcare benefits.

“It is shocking to me that a company that pays lip service to diversity and the importance of its employees refuses to recognize our family,” said Schuett in a press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “My wife earned her benefits during her decades of service to the company. No employer should be permitted to ignore our families and refuse to provide the hard-earned benefits of dedicated and skilled employees like Lesly.”

Said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan: “Companies that claim to support diversity, as FedEx does, should be celebrating the downfall of DOMA, not trying to resurrect it for widows of FedEx employees who are fighting to receive the basic benefits their spouses earned during decades of service to the company.”

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