WATCH: Little Caesars Sued Over Benefits Discrimination

A California man sues the pizza chain for failing to provide benefits for employees' same-sex spouses.

BY Trudy Ring

August 29 2014 4:10 PM ET

Frank Bernard (center) with husband Carl and attorney Gloria Allred

A Southern California man has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the parent company of Little Caesars over the denial of spousal health benefits to his husband.

Frank Bernard started working as a manager for the pizza chain in March and became eligible for benefits after 90 days, reports Courthouse News Service. However, the company declined to insure his husband, Carl.

He complained multiple times to Little Caesars Enterprises and its parent company, Ilitch Holdings, both based in Michigan, and he was told company policy is not to offer benefits to same-sex spouses. He received a letter from human resources explaining the company’s definition of spouse for benefits purposes: “Spouse means the one person to whom you are legally married under the laws of the state in which you reside, including a common law spouse, and who is the opposite gender from you.”

In a marriage equality state like California, if employers offer benefits to opposite-sex spouses, they generally have to offer them to legally married same-sex spouses as well, noted Bernard and his attorney, Gloria Allred. But Ilitch Holdings officials told Bernard that since the company is based in Michigan, where same-sex couples do not have marriage rights, it did not have to offer the benefits.

“I didn’t want anything special, I just wanted the same benefits package as heterosexual couples,” Bernard, who quit his job in July, said at a press conference in Los Angeles Wednesday, Reuters reports. Bernard and his husband were married in 2008, in the period after the California Supreme Court ruled for equal marriage rights and before the passage of Proposition 8 temporarily revoked those rights.

Bernard’s suit was filed Wednesday in state Superior Court in Orange County, Calif., as the Little Caesars regional headquarters is located in that county. It seeks monetary damages and a court order requiring Little Caesars to treat same-sex and opposite-sex spouses equally. Ilitch Holdings offered no immediate comment on the suit, according to Reuters and other sources.

Mike and Marian Ilitch, the couple behind Ilitch Holdings, own the Detroit Tigers baseball team, the Detroit Red Wings hockey team, and several other enterprises in addition to Little Caesars, the third-largest U.S. pizza chain.

Watch a report on the suit from Los Angeles’s KABC below.

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