Considine v. Brookdale Senior Living
Update, October 28, 2014: In late summer, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a letter to our client, Kerry Considine, determining that there was “reasonable cause to believe that the Respondent [Brookdale] has discriminated against the Charging Party [Kerry] on account of her sex.”
On October 1, Kerry received a “Right to Sue” letter from the EEOC allowing her to pursue this matter in federal court.
GLAD filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on October 28, 2014.
GLAD has filed a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Brookdale Senior Living on behalf of Kerry Considine, an employee who was denied the right to put her wife, Renee, onto her employer-provided health plan.
The charge of discrimination argues that Brookdale’s action discriminates against Kerry on the basis of her sex, in violation of both the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Kerry Considine is a licensed physical therapist who has worked with seniors at Brookdale since October 2012. She and Renee, a graduate student studying to be a school guidance counselor, married on November 1, 2013 in Massachusetts. Shortly after their wedding, Kerry asked Brookdale’s human resources department to add Renee to her health plan and was informed that Brookdale does not offer health insurance coverage to same-sex spouses.
Brookdale, a publicly-owned company, is the nation’s largest owner and operator of senior living communities, operating 550 senior living and retirement communities across the United States. It is headquartered in Tennessee.
The denial significantly affects Kerry and Renee’s lives. Renee currently has inadequate coverage through her student health plan and has had to pay for medical expenses out-of-pocket. She anticipates that after graduation, she may have to take a part-time guidance counseling job, without health insurance benefits, in order to get a foot in the door of the profession. The couple is also considering having a baby and worry about coverage for prenatal care for Renee.
Kerry is represented by GLAD attorney Janson Wu.
Kerry Considine, 36, is a physical therapist who really enjoys working with senior citizens – helping them regain the ability to take care of themselves in their daily lives. She’s worked at Brookdale Senior Living in Hartford, Connecticut, since October 2012. She loves her job and does it well. So she was “shocked and incredibly disappointed” when Brookdale told her that she would not be able to put Renee, her wife, on her employer-provided health insurance – the way all of her straight co-workers can with their husbands and wives.
Kerry and Renee, who is also 36, had recently married on a farm in Massachusetts, surrounded by family and friends who played every possible role in the day – officiant, musician, beer-maker and more. “It was the most perfect day,” says Renee. They met in college, where they were both in a stage production of Clue. (Kerry was Mrs. Peacock and Renee was a police officer.) They shared the belief that family is the most important thing in life and cemented that belief when they married after 12 years together.
Their happiness, however, was marred by the news that Brookdale would not respect their marriage and treat Kerry on an equal footing with her straight coworkers. Beyond the hurt of disrespect, the lack of health insurance has a very practical impact on their plans for family and work. Renee is currently in graduate school working toward becoming a school guidance counselor, where her student health plan does not cover many of her medical expenses. Post-graduation, she hopes to get a foot in the door of the profession by taking part-time work – which again may not offer adequate health insurance coverage. The financial and emotional strain of having inadequate health insurance weighs on the couple every day.
Even more meaningfully, Kerry and Renee had planned to start a family, with Renee getting pregnant. They now worry about how they will pay for prenatal care – and even if this is the right time at all.
“We are being forced to rethink significant things in our lives,” says Kerry. “It’s hard for me to believe that an organization devoted to health and wellness would treat one of its own employees this way. It’s just not right.”
Wedding Photo: Lesley Arak