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Little Caesars pizza sued for denying healthcare benefits to same-sex spouses

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A former employee of Little Caesars pizza in California has sued the nation’s third-largest pizza chain for discrimination on Wednesday. According to a report by Reuters, a former trainee manger is accusing the company of denying employees health insurance benefits for their legally wed same-sex spouses.

Frank Bernard, 47, filed the lawsuit brought to state Superior Court in Orange County. Like heterosexual employees of the company, Benard wanted equal treatment, including the health insurance coverage that the company refused to extend to his husband of six years. As a result of Little Caesars refusal to grant him this benefit, Benard quit his job and is suing the company for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law.

At a news conference held in Los Angeles, Benard said, “I didn’t want anything special, I just wanted the same benefits package as heterosexual couples.” The lawsuit names Little Caesars Enterprises as well as its parent company, Litch Holdings, as defendants.

The lawsuit also cites a letter Little Caesars gave to Benard explaining the company’s benefits policy. The letter defined “spouse” as “the one person whom you are legally married under the laws of the state in which you reside, including common law spouse, and who is the opposite gender from you.”

The definition of “spouse” by the company is considered outdated or should be redefined considering same-sex marriages are legal in the state of California. So there is a contradiction in the letter and one that has caused Benard to seek unspecified monetary damages and a court order requiring the pizza chain to treat gay employees the same as heterosexual employees in providing employment benefits.

Gay marriages in California resumed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional last June. It was on the same day that the Supreme Court also struck down key portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. The overturning of DOMA extended federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Benard feels Little Caesars has denied him the right to those benefits.