Fed Up 

FedEx lauded, then criticized, for employment benefits.

FedEx was recently named in Fortune magazine's "Top 100 Companies to Work For," but some gay and lesbian workers say that distinction is only true for heterosexual employees.

In the Fortune FedEx listing, a "yes" appeared next to the question "Offers domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples?"

Shortly after the listing was posted on Fortune's website, however, the blogosphere lit up with complaints from gay employees alleging the claim was incorrect.

"I was recently denied domestic partnership benefits for my same-sex partner and bereavement leave once he passed away. I was asked to take personal or vacation time to make funeral arrangements," one Memphis FedEx employee wrote on Topix.com.

FedEx only offers domestic partnership benefits — which include health insurance and bereavement leave for same-sex partners — in its California locations where such benefits are mandated by state law.

"When we responded to Fortune, we did give them a clarifying sentence," says FedEx spokesperson Sally Davenport.

FedEx Office (formerly Kinko's) also offers domestic partnership benefits since Kinko's offered them to staff before the

FedEx acquisition. In total, about 20 percent of FedEx employees are offered benefits for same-sex partners.

According to Daryl Herrschaft of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), "The biggest domestic partnership benefit is health insurance. Straight people can go to Las Vegas and get married on the weekend and come back to work Monday and insure their spouse."

FedEx received a score of 55 out of 100 on the HRC's Corporate Equality Index, which ranks 500 corporations based on gay-friendly policies.

Davenport says that although FedEx doesn't offer health benefits for same-sex partners, company employees are made aware of an outside insurance company, the National Access Healthcare Program, that provides coverage for partners and other family members who may live in an employee's home.

"I can't say if [National Access] costs more because FedEx doesn't have a fiduciary relationship with that company," Davenport says. "We don't sponsor it. We just make employees aware that it is an option for those who want to extend benefits to a wider family group."

One FedEx worker, who asked to remain anonymous, says FedEx's refusal to grant domestic partnership benefits has created an environment in which some workers feel uncomfortable revealing their sexual orientation.

"This shows that there's homophobia within the company, and people don't feel comfortable coming out at work," says the employee. "It pulls the welcome mat out from under you."

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