Attorney general investigating auto parts chain over same-sex health benefits

by: Graham Johnson Updated:


Same-sex marriage is the law in Washington State and, for the first time, Attorney General Bob Ferguson is investigating claims a company is not providing health benefits equally. Ferguson said O'Reilly Auto Parts has a policy against giving health benefits to workers' same-sex spouses.

"They're very explicit that it's only opposite-sex marriages that are recognized," he told KIRO 7.

Ferguson said his office began investigating when an O'Reilly employee complained her spouse was denied benefits.

"It's my job to make sure that each employee in Washington State who is married to a same sex partner receives those same benefits that a heterosexual couple has," Ferguson said.

The attorney general is not yet suing over the policy itself, but is taking the company to court, claiming it refuses to hand over some documents his attorneys have requested.

O'Reilly spokesman Mark Merz took issue with that claim, saying the company has indeed provided documents to the attorney general's office.  But on the central question of whether the company denies benefits for same-sex workers, Merz declined comment.

O'Reilly Auto Parts is based in Missouri. The attorney general's office says it has 147 stores in Washington employing nearly 2,194 people.

Ferguson said once his attorneys get the documents they need from the company, they'll decide whether to sue under the Consumer Protection Act.