CN updates pension policies to include all widowed same-sex partners

CN updates pension policies to include all widowed same-sex partners-Milenio Stadium-Canada
CN says it has amended its pension policy, which prevented same-sex partners of deceased employees who retired before 1998 from collecting benefits. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

CN will allow all same-sex partners of deceased employees who retired before 1998 to also collect survivor benefits, correcting what it calls “a regrettable lag” in updating its pension policies.

CN withholding pension from gay widower over outdated definition of spouse

In a statement to CBC News on Wednesday, the company said dated policies regarding same-sex relationships prevented some people from collecting those benefits.

“We sincerely apologize to those impacted. CN has amended the policy,” the statement reads.

“The company has made firm commitments to increasing inclusion and diversity in our workforce, both in Canada and the U.S. We’ve made it clear that our LGBTQ+ employees are welcomed, valued and accorded the same rights and privileges as all our railroaders.”

The change comes after Ken Haire of Harbour Grace, N.L., told CBC News that CN rejected his claim to his partner’s pension after he died, because the company did not recognize same-sex relationships when his partner, Gerry Schwarz, retired in 1991.

CN’s pension plan began including same-sex partners as eligible spouses in 1998, but the change was not made retroactive. Since Schwarz’s death in 2012, Haire fought the company to gain access to his pension.

Gerry Schwarz left-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Gerry Schwarz, left, and Ken Haire were in a relationship for more than 33 years. They lived together in Toronto before moving to Harbour Grace, N.L., to be closer to Haire’s family. (Submitted by Ken Haire)

On Tuesday evening, Haire received an offer letter from the railway that recognized him as Schwarz’s common-law spouse and granted him the survivor pension for the rest of his life.

It also included a lump sum for missed payments in the nine years since Schwarz died, plus interest.

CN said Saturday that it was reviewing its policy, but the change has now been made to open up benefits to anyone in Haire’s situation.

“Our late employees’ life partners who find themselves in this circumstance will be able to collect the survivor benefits of their loved ones retroactively. A preliminary search has identified a small number of similar cases among our pensioners, and CN is contacting them to correct their situation,” the statement reads.


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