SkyWest Airlines announced in early March that it will offer equal travel benefits to gay and lesbian employees with a same-sex spouse or registered domestic partner, reversing a policy that prompted a warning letter from Lambda Legal in October of last year.
Lambda Legal sent a complaint letter to SkyWest and Delta Air Lines on behalf of SkyWest employee Gilbert Caldwell, explaining that the airlines' treatment of gay employees with a spouse or registered domestic partner violated not just the airlines' stated policies, but California law.
"We're delighted that SkyWest has adopted a policy that recognizes the full dignity and worth of its married lesbian and gay employees," said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli. "Travel benefits are an important part of airline employees' overall compensation. Lesbian and gay workers deserve to be paid and treated equally for doing equal work."
Caldwell, 57, works at Palm Springs International Airport and married his partner of almost 36 years in 2008. SkyWest's previous policy required Caldwell to pay a fare for his spouse, 72-year-old Rev. David Farrell, on SkyWest-operated Delta Connection flights and Delta Air Lines flights under a "companion" program designed for friends. Married heterosexual employees do not pay the fare for their spouses.
"All I wanted was for my employer to treat me the same as my heterosexual co-workers," said Caldwell. "I enjoy working for SkyWest and am proud of my role with the company. I'm relieved and gratified that I now will be treated as an equally valued employee."