The nation's largest freight rail
carriers announced Thursday they will extend health care benefits to
the spouses of gay workers starting January 1.
“While this is not a benefit required
by law or under current collective bargaining agreements, the
railroads agreed with labor to provide the benefit in light of recent
changes allowing same sex couples to access [the] same federal tax benefits
provided to other married couples,” read a statement from the
National Railway Labor Conference, which represents the largest
freight carriers in the nation.
The announcement came just two days
after two BNSF Railway engineers filed a lawsuit against the company
alleging violations of the federal Equal Pay Act.
Cleveland Stockmeyer, who represents
the two gay workers, told
the AP that BNSF's company health plan refers to eligible
dependents as “your husband or wife.” BNSF, the nation's second
largest freight railroad network, is headquartered in Fort Worth,
“It shouldn't take a federal lawsuit
to make a national company do the right thing,” Stockmeyer said.
“If they tell me or my clients the benefits will be offered, and if
they actually do it, we'll believe it. But they still need to
account for denying them benefits for one year.”