Two Same-Sex Couples Sue BNSF over Health Benefits

Dec 3, 2013

Two workers are suing BNSF, one of the nation's largest rail companies, saying their same-sex spouses have repeatedly been denied health benefits even though gay marriage is legal in Washington state.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle states BNSF refused to add the spouses of locomotive engineer Michael Hall and conductor Amie Garrand to their plans.

Hall, a train engineer, said trying to get the company to cover his spouse has been an emotional rollercoaster.

“I was told many times by BNSF [that] marriage is one man, one woman. I told them not in Washington state. They still said no,” Hall said.

Also suing is Amie Garrand, who said her spouse was also denied benefits. Both employees said they made repeated requests over several months, only to be met with rude denials.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but said generally "benefits are available to same-sex spouses of BNSF salaried employees if they were married in a sate where such marriage is recognized."

Hall and Garrand are members of the union, and the company said the language in the union contract doesn’t cover same-sex couples as it refers to someone’s “husband or wife.”

The union disputes that claim, saying it fully supports providing benefits for all married couples.