West Virginia Record

Monday, December 16, 2019

Women sue coal company for refusal of same-sex spousal benefits

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 23, 2015


MOUNDSVILLE – Two women are suing the Marshall County Coal Company after they claim it refused to provide same-sex spousal benefits.

Trustees of the UMWA Retirement Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO Program, Murray American Energy Inc. Play 107 were also named as defendants in the suit.

As of Nov. 7, 2014, Brittni Ann Rice became the lawful spouse of Jennifer Kay Riggle and, as Riggle was an employee of the coal company and a participant in a health benefit program offered by the company, it was supposed to cover spouses of covered employees, according to a complaint filed in Marshall Circuit Court.

Rice and Riggle claim on Nov. 14, 2014, Riggle requested to add a dependent spouse to the coverage and was denied on Nov. 25, 2014.

When Riggle asked the president of Murray why her spouse was denied, she was informed that because he did not support gay marriage, his company would not provide same-sex spousal benefits to its employees, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated any state bans on same-sex marriage on June 26, and they should be receiving the same spousal benefits as other participants in the health benefit program.

The defendants’ repeated refusal to enroll Rice as a spouse, as well as its refusal to provide Riggle with bereavement leave is actionable under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs are seeking for an order ceasing the policy of refusing to provide benefits to same-sex married couples, as well as other damages. They are being represented by Patrick S. Cassidy and Timothy F. Cogan of Cassidy Cogan Shapell & Voegelin LC; and Elgine H. McArdle of McArdle Law Office.

Marshall Circuit Court case number: 15-C-199

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Organizations in this Story

Cassidy, Cogan, Shapell & Voegelin, L.C.U.S. Supreme Court