Stellantis to reinstate domestic partner benefits for non-bargaining unit U.S. employees

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Stellantis NV on Monday said it will reinstate domestic partner benefits for all eligible non-bargaining unit employees in the U.S. for both same- and opposite-sex couples, regardless of partner status.

"Stellantis is committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive business environment in which all people and ideas are welcomed, appreciated and respected," Dana Keefer, head of human resources in North America for Stellantis, said in a statement announcing the policy change. "Providing domestic partner benefits to all eligible employees despite their partner status embodies our company's purpose and values and enables us to meet the needs of a diverse and dynamic workforce and the expectations of prospective employees."

The reinstatement goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022. The company, along with Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., extended domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples in 2000. After a landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, however, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (which in January merged with Groupe PSA of France to form Stellantis) discontinued the policy. 

"At that time, we didn't maybe even believe it was still necessary," explained Lottie Holland, director of diversity, inclusion, engagement and EEO compliance for Stellantis-North America. But now, "We understand that the family structure and the living arrangement is changing, and that's really what was the driving force behind this decision."

GM offers benefits to married same- and opposite-sex domestic partners under its salaried plan. It has offered domestic partner benefits for more than a decade, and extended same-sex spousal benefits to married LGBTQ couples in 2015, according to the company.

And according to Ford, it provides coverage "to all legal spouses and follow(s) all state laws." For example, it noted, in California, a registered domestic partner is also eligible. The Dearborn automaker said these benefits apply to all employees. 

Stellantis' latest policy change would open up benefits to a broader swath of employees. And though it now applies to salaried employees, Holland said the company plans to discuss expanding it to the hourly workers whose benefits are covered by Stellantis' collective bargaining agreement with the United Auto Workers when the company and the union begin negotiating a new contract in 2023.

The policy would make domestic partners eligible for benefits "similar to those who are legally married," according to Stellantis, such as medical, dental, vision, life insurance, paid parental leave, relocation assistance within the U.S. and the ability to lease vehicles under company vehicle operations.

The non-bargaining unit employees to whom the benefits apply have to meet certain criteria to qualify. They must, for example, have shared a continuous committed relationship with another person for at least a year, reside in the same household as their partner, not be married or in a domestic partner relationship with anyone else, among other requirements. The policy also states that employees are not allowed to establish a domestic partnership relationship "solely for the purpose of obtaining benefits."

To take advantage of the benefits, they would be required to submit documentation including a signed affidavit and items such as a joint mortgage or lease, joint ownership of a vehicle, and shared utility bills, among other acceptable options.

The transatlantic automaker, which makes Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Chrysler vehicles, said the announcement was part of its observance of LGBTQ+ History Month, National Coming Out Day and National Spirit Day. To mark the occasions, the company plans to light purple the 960-square-foot glass Pentastar on top of its 15-story Auburn Hills building tower Oct. 11-21.

The company noted it has taken other steps to support LGBTQ employees and issues, including expanding in 2020 its supplier diversity programs to include certified LGBTQ-owned businesses.

In a statement, Arana Long, chair of PRISM, Stellantis' LGBTQ+ business resource group, called the benefits reinstatement for all eligible employees "a strong leadership move by the company to support the diverse lifestyles of current and prospective employees."

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski