KELOWNA—In a pre-emptive move designed to avoid an embarrassing loss, the City of Kelowna has reached a human rights settlement on same-sex spousal benefits with a local CUPE member less than a week before her complaint was to go before the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
Meredith Clements, a member of CUPE 338 working at a local RCMP detachment, first asked her employer for spousal benefits when she was hired in 1999. The employer turned her down. Clements applied again in 2001 and in 2003, and was denied both times.
After BC marriage law changed in the summer of 2003 and benefits were legally extended to same-sex partners, the union filed a grievance with the employer on her behalf. The grievance was settled in the fall of 2004 before the case went to arbitration. Shortly afterward, Clements filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
Terms of the settlement reached yesterday are unavailable, as both Clements and the City are subject to a non-disclosure agreement.
In an interview with local CBC radio, Kelowna’s Human Resources manager Rick Baker said that the City would now treat all couples the same. But he did not comment on why the settlement took so long or why Clements was repeatedly denied. Same sex spousal benefits have been available in most municipal contracts in BC since 2000.
The settlement is especially good news for gay and lesbian union members who live outside the Lower Mainland, says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.
“It’s too bad the settlement took so long, but Sister Clements deserves credit for pushing ahead with the case,” says O’Neill. “We applaud her for having the courage to persevere—this will really make a difference for gay and lesbian union members, and their partners, throughout BC.”