Tuesday, the widower of a former KRON4 employee sued Young Broadcasting of San Francisco and the KRON/IBEW Local 45 Pension Plan for refusing to provide him with a spousal pension benefit even though the couple were registered domestic partners.
David Reed and Donald Lee Gardner began dating in 1998. They quickly fell in love and committed themselves to caring for and protecting one another, including by becoming domestic partners in 2004. They were together for 16 years and were married for only five days before Donald lost his battle with a rare blood disease in 2014.
Donald was employed as technical director for KRON4 for more than 30 years before retiring in 2009. After Donald died, David sought a spousal survivor benefit under KRON4’s pension plan, which incorporates California law mandating that registered domestic partners have all of the same rights and responsibilities as those who are married. Even though the two were registered domestic partners and later married, the plan refuses to provide spousal benefits to David.
“My husband and I did everything we could to protect one another,” David said. “Words cannot describe the grief of losing the person you planned to spend the rest of your life beside. While I mourned his loss, I was devastated by KRON4’s refusal to recognize our relationship and to pay the benefits that Donald earned during his long service to KRON4 in order to protect our family.”
David is represented by Renaker Hasselman LLP and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Teresa Renaker, who represents David, said: “Federal law requires pension plans to follow their written terms, and there is no question that David and Donald must be treated as spouses under the clear language of the plan.”
Added NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan: “The Plan needs to abide by its promises and provide this much needed benefit to David. It is shocking that a San Francisco-based company and a California Plan would discriminate against its employees and their partners in this way. There is absolutely no defense in this case.”