Judge Rules Against FedEx in Same-Sex Benefits Case

Posted by Melanie Nathan, January 05, 2016.

Yes there is still fallout from DOMA and it is scandalous to note that FedEx did not have the decency to apply the Edie Windsor case retrospectively. So now let fairness, equality and justice prevail, with thanks to these Plaintiffs, NCLR, Feinberg Jackson Worthman & Wasow, the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, and the Birnie Law Office.

From the Recorder: FedEx Corp can’t deny survivor pension benefits to the widow of a gay employee who died just six days before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton held that FedEx must interpret its pension plan consistent with federal law after the Supreme Court’s decision striking down DOMA as unconstitutional in U.S. v. Windsor.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 8.15.27 AMWhile not a final ruling, Hamilton’s decision sets the stage for Stacey Schuett, the widow of longtime FedEx employee Lesly Taboada-Hall, to prevail on breach of fiduciary duty claims and to collect survivor benefits under FedEx’s plan.

“The court is not persuaded at this stage of the case and under the facts alleged in the complaint that there is any basis for denying retroactive application of Windsor,” Hamilton wrote.

Schuett and Taboada-Hall were together for nearly 30 years before they married on June 19, 2013 in a civil ceremony. Taboada-Hall, who had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, died the following day. At the time, licenses were not being issued for same-sex marriages in California under a stay imposed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In-house lawyers for FedEx’s pension fund took the position that Taboada-Hall was therefore unmarried at the time of her death and had no surviving spouse eligible for benefits. Even if their marriage was deemed valid, lawyers for FedEx argued Schuett was not due survivor benefits under the definition of spouse set forth in DOMA and used in the company’s pension plan, which was limited to a husband or wife of the opposite sex.

Hamilton rejected both arguments. She concluded that the technical barriers that prevented same-sex marriages did not close the question of whether the couple had legally married.

“They wanted to marry, intended to marry, and did everything possible to legally marry while Ms. Taboada-Hall was still alive,” Hamilton wrote. “Were it not for California’s application of the unconstitutional law prohibiting same-sex marriage, there would be no question” that they were married.  Read more.


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