Local gay attorney Rob Wiley said he is calling off a protest planned for Saturday outside the AT&T store on Oak Lawn Avenue after a vice president from the company contacted him this afternoon. Wiley said the vice president told him that his client, Bryan Dickenson, will be granted a discretionary leave of absence beginning Monday so he can care for his ailing partner of 30 years, Bill Sugg. AT&T is granting Dickenson discretionary leave because the company doesn’t currently have a policy granting same-sex partners the same benefits that heterosexual spouses would receive under the federal Family Medical Leave Act. Wiley said the vice president told him the company will adopt a new policy beginning Monday, Feb. 1 that provides FMLA-equivalent benefits to same-sex partners, regardless of whether their relationship is recognized by the state in which they live. However, the new policy will apply only to non-union employees. The majority of AT&T’s employees, including Dickenson, are represented by unions, and the company cannot unilaterally change their contracts. The unions are expected to agree to the changes, Wiley said, but this process could take a few weeks.
So, according to Wiley, a statement from AT&T’s Walt Sharp earlier today was inaccurate. The company DOES NOT have a policy in place allowing same-sex partners FMLA-equivalent benefits in states where it’s not required by law. If this is the case, it’s unclear why AT&T would have received a score of 100 percent on the Human Right’s Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index last year.
Wiley said there are still issues that have to be worked out between his client and the company, including those listed below. However, he said he’s confident those issues wi’ll be resolved to Dickenson’s satisfaction, so he’s calling off the protest.