Q: I have a dilemma that I don’t know what to do about. My boyfriend went to prison two years ago, and we have been corresponding at least once a week. He is going in front of the parole board next week and he thinks he will be getting out early. The problem is that I have fallen in love with someone else and I haven’t told him. I didn’t want to mention it because I wanted him to have a reason to get out and to change his life around, but now I am afraid to tell him because I don’t know what he will do. Do you think I should tell him now before he gets out or wait until he is out?
Not Waiting for the Man
A: I would tell him as soon as possible so he can start dealing with the fact that he is no longer your boyfriend. Hopefully he has a support system or prison counselor inside that can help him get through this and not mess up his chances of getting out and turning his life around.
Job benefits: a secret?
Q: I work for a company that technically offers partner benefits. This company touts how liberal it is. Just recently I hired a new worker for the program I direct. I know that she is gay from seeing her and her partner in the community at various events. The first day of work she went through the orientation process where our Human Resource director explains company policy and benefits to new employees, and they fill out all the paper work. When Kelly came back the next day, I asked her if she signed her partner up for the health insurance. I was just making conversation, and I know her partner doesn’t work outside the home so I assume they would need the insurance. Well, my new employee said that it was never mentioned that partner benefits were available, and she was afraid to ask because she didn’t want to come out not knowing what the company is like.
I went to Human Resources to talk to the HR director who runs orientation and explained what my employee had said, thinking she just must not have heard him when he talked about who is eligible for benefits. He said he doesn’t mention it unless someone “looks” gay and then he tells them when they are alone. He told me that it upsets some new employees when they hear about the company’s policy so he doesn’t mention it during orientation. I was shocked, and then on top of this I know that he is gay. But he is mostly in the closet. I’ve always wondered why he is so closeted, because in this company there is no reason to be closeted and I’ve never experienced any discrimination from management.
What do I do about this? Is it illegal to not tell gay people that these benefits are available to them?
A: I don’t know the legality of mentioning or not mentioning that these benefits exist to domestic partners. If you have a union at this company, you could go to the union rep and see what they say. You could check with the company lawyer, if they have one, about the legality of the situation. Or speak to a lawyer that specializes in labor and employment law.
However, you might want to start off by talking more to the HR director to find out where he is coming from and to explain why you think it’s important to mention the company has partnership benefits. It’s best to try and solve problems at the source before resorting to going up the ladder. My guess is that since the HR director is closeted, he is probably dealing with his own internalized homophobia, and that’s why he is uncomfortable talking about domestic partner benefits. I assume the top management thinks that domestic partner benefits are an important part of the company; you could express your concerns at that level, if the HR person doesn’t respond positively to your concerns. I’m glad you are there and in a position to look into the problem and hopefully get it resolved so no one who works at the company goes without partner benefits because they don’t know that they are available.