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Thursday, February 2, 2012

County workers will be waiting a little longer for domestic-partner benefits, commission told

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Last month, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told the county's Human Relations Commission that he would implement domestic-partner benefits for county employees by the time of the Commission's next meeting. That meeting was held today, and Fitzgerald still has not issued the promised executive order. But representatives from Fitzgerald's office did tell the HRC that they have "begun the process" of offering the benefit.

While there's no order yet, Fitzgerald's chief of staff, Jennifer Liptak, said the executive's office has been meeting with the human resources department and county manager to determine how to best offer the benefit. Since the county has union-represented and non-represented employees, Liptak said "We have to properly communicate this to the unions ... there are processes we have to follow to make sure we are compliant with the law."

County officials said it's likely they will have a proposed timeline at the HRC's March meeting; Liptak said the administration "hopes to have this done very, very soon and roll out this plan."

Domestic partner benefits have been the banner issue for the HRC, which recommended the county offer the benefits nearly two years ago.

"We don't expect scores of enrollees. The important effect of this policy is that it's an invaluable improvement to the work culture of LGBT employees in the county," said commissioner Hugh McGough. "Any delay in the roll-out plan date would be unfortunate, given the long delay we experienced under the previous administration."

Liptak said the administration was sensitive to that concern. "Rich is committed to following through on the process," she said. "We're doing what we can."

The HRC next meets on March 1.

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