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Suit alleged insurance terms for gay partner violated constitution
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
Insurance - Coverage; Civil Rights - Title VII, 42 USC 1983; Constitutional Law - Due Process; Insurance - Third-party Benefits; Constitutional Law - Equal Protection; Civil Rights - Civil Rights Act of 1964; Constitutional Law - Fourteenth Amendment; Employment - Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Richard L. Seech v. Gateway School District, No. GD-16-005672
June 22, 2017
Richard L. Seech (Male, 57 Years)
Samuel J. Cordes; Samuel J. Cordes & Associates; Pittsburgh, PA, for Richard L. Seech ■ Nicholas A. Krakoff; Samuel J. Cordes & Associates; Pittsburgh, PA, for Richard L. Seech
Gateway School District
John W. Smart; Andrews & Price; Pittsburgh, PA, for Gateway School District
In September 1979, plaintiff Richard Seech, 57, began employment as an art teacher for the Gateway School District, in Allegheny County. He retired in June 2013. At the time of his retirement, there was a collective bargaining agreement between the school district and teachers' association which provided that retirees were entitled to health-insurance benefits for themselves, and if they so elected, for their spouses for nine years or until the spouse reached age 65. Following the date of retirement, retirees could obtain coverage for a spouse at his or her own cost. At the time he retired, Seech was unable to marry his domestic partner, because same-sex marriage was not legal in Pennsylvania. In June 2014, after the state had started recognizing same-sex marriage, Seech married his domestic partner. Seech then asked the school district if he could elect health-insurance coverage for his spouse. Although Gateway told Seech that he could elect spousal benefits, it would not pay the monthly premiums for him, because he had been unmarried at the time of retirement. Seech decided not to elect spousal coverage, because to do so would result in him having to pay the roughly $900 monthly insurance-premium increase. Seech asserted that, in late 2015, he again asked Gateway to pay for health-insurance benefits for his spouse, but the school district again refused. Seech claimed that as a result, he and his spouse had to obtain health insurance for his spouse from an alternative provider, which afforded fewer benefits and higher deductibles. Seech sued Gateway, alleging that it discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendmen and infringed on his fundamental right to marriage in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He also claimed violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Gateway contended that Seech was treated the same as all similarly situated employees, a category which the district described as an employee who was unmarried at the time of retirement but who married after retirement. The school district asserted that, because no heterosexual retiree was allowed to add a dependent without cost if the marriage occurred after retirement, Seech was not seeking to be treated equally, but preferentially. According to Gateway, because the collective bargaining agreement was not negotiated to include benefits for same-sex couples, Seech was estopped from bringing federal and constitutional discrimination claims.
Seech sought to recover economic damages of $28,801.38. He further sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.
Following a bench trial, the court found that the Gateway School District had violated the U.S. Constitution and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and awarded Seech damages of $50,000.
Richard L. Seech: $38,655 Personal Injury: economic loss; $11,345 Personal Injury: non-economic loss
Alan D. Hertzberg
The court determined Seech's counsel would receive $74,013 in attorneys' fees and $7,705.14 in expenses.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.