CN updates pension policy for LGBTQ+ retirees

CN recently announced a change in its pension policies regarding company retirees with same-sex partners. BalkansCat /

CN announced May 5 on Twitter that it has updated its pension policies regarding surviving life partners of CN retirees.

A “regrettable lag” in updating the company’s policies has been corrected immediately, stated the Class I’s tweet.

“Because of dated policies regarding same-sex relationships, longtime common-law partners of deceased CN employees who retired prior to 1998 have not been able to collect the survivor benefits of their loved ones,” CN tweeted, adding that the company apologizes to people impacted by the previous policy.

The tweet continued:

“CN has amended the policy. The company has made firm commitments to increasing inclusion and diversity in our workforce, both in Canada and the United States. We’ve made it clear that our LGBTQ+ employees are welcomed, valued, and accorded the same rights and privileges as all our railroaders.

“Due to this change, our late employees’ life partners who find themselves in this circumstance will be able to collect the survivor benefits of their loved ones retroactively. A preliminary search has identified a small number of similar cases among our pensioners, and CN is contacting them to correct their situation.”

The railroad’s policy change was announced days after a Canadian radio station and CBC News reported the story of a Newfoundland and Labrador man who said CN rejected his claim to his late partner’s CN rail pension because the couple had been in a same-sex relationship.

On May 4, Ken Haire received an offer letter from the railroad, recognizing him as the common- law spouse of Gerry Schwarz, a CN employee for 30 years, according to the CBC’s report. The letter said CN was granting Haire the survivor pension for the rest of his life. It also included a lump sum for missed payments in the nine years since Schwarz died, plus interest. 

“We’ve won,” Haire wrote in a message to CBC News after he received the letter, the news service reported.

A CN spokesman did not return a request for comment in time for a RailPrime deadline.

In recent years, CN board members and executives have said a diverse and inclusive workforce is part of the company’s sustainability goals and environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. 

To that end, the railroad in 2020 appointed a director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We are continuing to push toward increasing inclusion and diversity in our teams and ensuring equality,” CN President and Chief Executive Officer JJ Ruest wrote in the CN 2020 Annual Report. “We all obtain stronger results from a wider range of insights and perspectives, and we all have a role to play in creating an inclusive workplace where every CN employee can be their authentic self.”