Gay rights groups have criticised the delivery company UPS for depriving employees in same-sex partnership of health insurance benefits.

According to New Jersey law, same-sex couples in civil unions have equal entitlement to employment benefits, yet UPS makes a difference between married couples and those in civil-unions in terms of health insurance.

This means the company is defying a court ruling which required equality regardless of sexual orientation.

UPS also stated that it was not acting out of homophobic sentiments but according to New Jersey law, where the non-discrimination legislation was only valid for those employees not organised in a union.

The double standard of the company has become public because the partner of Gabriael Brazier, president of the employer’s union, was not judged to qualify for the employees health plan by the company because the same-sex couple have a civil union and not a marriage.

UPS told PinkNews.co.uk:

“As a matter of corporate policy, UPS currently offers same sex benefits to all US non-union employees — management as well as administrative workers.

“This includes all such employees in New Jersey, even though the state has failed to recognise gay partners as married spouses.

“Beyond health care, UPS also offers benefits such as medical leave, pension rights, funeral leave, relocation and transfer benefits.

“We recently persuaded UPS pilots to same-sex benefits as part of that new union contract. UPS doesn’t legally have the right to give same-sex benefits to package car drivers like Ms. Brazier because she is part of the Teamsters union and any changes to benefits have to be done as part of the collective bargain process.

“The contact expires in 2008. We are currently in negotiations for the new contract and we have already brought up this issue to the Teamsters for consideration.

“The situation regarding Ms. Brazier and her partner is just as disappointing to UPS as it is to them.”

Gay rights groups regard this case as an example for how civil unions cement discrimination against gays.

A spokesperson of New Jersey’s GLBT rights organisation Garden State Equality told Queer.de that they have had 170 complaints about similar discrimination.