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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 5 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 36
Little Caesars sued for anti-Gay discrimination
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Little Caesars sued for anti-Gay discrimination

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Little Caesars pizza chain has been sued by a former management trainee for denying health insurance coverage to same-sex spouses.

In a suit filed in Orange County, California, on August 28 Frank Bernard accuses the pizza company of discriminating against him on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of California law. Bernard said he quit his job at the country's third-largest pizza chain after they refused to extend coverage to his husband of six years.

The lawsuit names Little Caesars Enterprises and its parent company, Ilitch Holdings, as defendants.

'I didn't want anything special, I just wanted the same benefits package as heterosexual couples,' Bernard said at a news conference in Los Angeles.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order requiring the company to afford equal spousal benefits to Gay and straight married workers.

'With this lawsuit we look forward to expanding the employment rights and benefits for legally married same sex couples,' Bernard's attorney, Gloria Allred, told reporters.

In his filing, Bernard said Little Caesars sent him a letter explaining their benefits policy and defining 'spouse' as 'the one person to whom you are legally married under the laws of the state in which you reside, including common law spouse, and who is the opposite gender from you.'

Bernard and his partner were among some 18,000 Gay and Lesbian couples who married in California in 2008, during a five-month window between a state Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and the passage of Proposition 8 banning it again.

Those marriages were later upheld as valid by federal and state courts, and last June the U.S. Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California, by dismissing a challenge to a lower court ruling striking down Prop 8.

Little Caesars has it corporate headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, where same-sex marriage was not legal at the time Bernard asked for spousal benefits for his husband. Since that time, however, a federal judge has ruled that Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in USA v. Windsor, which struck down DOMA, means that same-sex couples are entitled to federal recognition and any spousal benefits that may come to them under federal law, but it does not apply to state law or to private employers.

California, like Washington, not only recognizes same-sex marriage, but forbids employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Little Caesars ranks behind Pizza Hut and Domino's in sales volume, with 2012 sales of $2.9 billion, according to Nation's Restaurant News, an industry magazine.

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