The Canadian National Railway Co. is amending its pension policy after awarding benefits to a widower who was initially denied because of an outdated rule regarding same-sex couples.
On Monday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Newfoundland resident Ken Haire was in a years-long battle with CN Rail over access to spouse Gerry Schwarz’s pension benefits. The CBC’s report said Haire’s claim was initially rejected because Schwarz retired in 1991, prior to a 1998 policy amendment that provided pension benefits to same-sex common-law partners of deceased employees. On Tuesday, the CBC reported CN Rail reversed its decision to award Haire with pension benefits.
In an email to Benefits Canada, Mathieu Gaudreault, senior advisor for media relations and public affairs at CN Rail, said the company is updating its pension policy immediately. It’s also contacting pensioners in situations similar to Haire’s and awarding them benefits retroactively, he said.
“We sincerely apologize to those impacted. 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 and valued and accorded the same rights and privileges as all our [employees]. Due to this change, 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 lawyer for Haire didn’t respond to Benefits Canada‘s request for comment.