FedEx is facing being sued by the widow of a longtime driver who claims the company refused to pay in spousal benefits because it did not recognize their same-sex marriage.
The driver, Lesly Taboada-Hall, worked at FedEx for 26 years as a driver before dying of uterine cancer in 2013. Just six days later, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act that had made same-sex unions illegal.
But because the ruling came after Hall’s death, FedEx argued that her widow Stacey Schuett was not entitled to spousal benefits. The couple had registered as domestic partners, and married in Taboada-Hall’s hospital room the day before she died.
The state of California determined that their marriage was valid, but because their union came before the DOMA decision, FedEx refused to recognize their marriage and pay the $400,000 in spousal benefits Schuett would have received.
Lawyers for Schuett have argued that FedEx must retroactively recognize marriages that became legal after the Supreme Court ruling.
“It’s not like DOMA became unconstitutional on June 26, 2013,” said Nina Wasow, one of Schuett’s lawyers.
“The law was unconstitutional all along.”
Schuett said that Lesly Taboada-Hall enjoyed working for FedEx and was treated well by the company during her fight with cancer.
“Lesly gave 26 years to FedEx, and she respected the company. It was a point of pride with her to be an outstanding employee. Our family is still experiencing the extreme pain and grief that comes with the death of a wife and mother,” said Schuett.
“FedEx should recognize our family, respect Lesly’s decades of service to the company, and honor Lesly’s intention of providing for us even after we lost her.”
Amy Whelan, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and another of Schuett’s lawyers, noted that many other companies are extending benefits to same-sex couples.
“But we suspect that some employers won’t do that and will continue to try and discriminate against their employee,” she said.
“What happened to Stacey and Leslie can very much happen now to people who are still living in states where they’re still not allowed to marry.”
The lawsuit against FedEx is seeking money that would have been paid after Lesly Taboada-Hall’s death, plus attorney fees.