Dallas | Discrimination | News

AT&T Denies Gay Employee Sick Leave to Care for Ailing Partner


Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years. Sugg suffered a stroke in September and Dickenson, who has worked for AT&T for the past 12 years, is using vacation time so he can visit Sugg for one afternoon a week at a rehabilitation facility because AT&T refuses to give Dickenson the 12 weeks of sick leave that would be offered to heterosexual spouses in the same circumstances. Dickenson is concerned that when that time runs out he'll be fired for requesting additional time off to care for his longtime companion.

A rally in support of the couple is to take place in Dallas this Saturday in front of the AT&T retail store at 3311 Oak Lawn Ave.

Dallas Voice reports: "Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter. After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its 'Best Places to Work.' But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner."

Added Wiley: “At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion. I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

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  1. More proof of the uselessness of the HRC!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 29, 2010 1:30:33 PM

  2. Even though it's not their "policy" to do so, there's a really quick way of buying a lot of good will and a lot of good press - if they (AT&T) act fast.

    Let's see if AT&T figures it out....

    Posted by: Steve | Jan 29, 2010 1:32:46 PM

  3. David, but At&T is doing what? Who is doing the wrong here? HRC or AT&T. You DO see who is "DOING" the wrong to this couple don't you? You do understand who is denying visitation for spousal illness right? David you do see who is doing the harm right? David please say you see who is the bad guy here.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Jan 29, 2010 1:37:11 PM

  4. gee whiz I wonder if at&t is a major contributor to hrc? that would certainly be cheaper than actually taking care of their gay employees.

    Posted by: wtf | Jan 29, 2010 1:41:23 PM

  5. This is the best I could find on the AT&T webpage:

    AT&T Human Resource Inquiries
    Walt Sharp
    E-Mail: walt.sharp@att.com

    Posted by: amo | Jan 29, 2010 1:52:45 PM

  6. @WTF

    Now that is an interesting question since this happened at a place that made this particular HRC listing.

    Yes, it is AT&T that is the agent doing the harm but it does make you wonder the basis upon which HRC grants scores to these companies.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Jan 29, 2010 1:52:58 PM

  7. This makes me sick to my stomach.

    If they (AT&T) get away with this, this will set a precedent for all the other States that don't recognize domestic partnership.

    Fortunately, the company I work for, which is based in the US recognizes domestic partnership everywhere. Not because it's a question of law but because it's the RIGHT THING TO DO.

    (...and the CEO is a Republican!)

    Posted by: Kevin | Jan 29, 2010 1:59:30 PM

  8. Denied your employee benefits? There's not an app for that.

    Posted by: crispy | Jan 29, 2010 1:59:32 PM

  9. Well. On HRC's listing for AT&T it does state that AT & T does allow for FMLA-like leave for same sex partners.

    The trick here is, AT&T isn't, of course, mandated by state or federal law to do but HRC claims that they do.


    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Jan 29, 2010 2:01:43 PM

  10. I worked for AT&T in the early 90's. They think employees are something to be S*!T upon. When my Dad died they refused to allow me to use additional vacation time to help my Mom settle her financial affairs. They had frozen our vacation time and we were not allowed to move it, even in an emergency. They gave me 3 days of bereavement leave and told me to get back to work. This does not surprise me in the least that AT&T would treat a gay couple this way. The message here is: DON'T DO BUSINESS WITH AT&T! Even if they show some compassion in this situation, it will only be a token gesture to get better press. They don't give a rats A$$ for employees, especially GLTB employees.

    Posted by: Brad | Jan 29, 2010 2:09:05 PM

  11. Wouldn't the application of the FMLA policy to GLBT employees be a standard question for HRC to ask when rating these companies? You'd certainly think so. Otherwise, in this case, AT&T's 100% rating in the treatment of GLBT employees (as well as their "Best Places to Work" ranking) is a big fat farce.

    Kinda reminds me of how we're generally treated by the Democratic Party -- lots of lip-service (sure, we'll accept your donation) but no real legislative support when we need it.

    Posted by: Rob | Jan 29, 2010 2:10:18 PM

  12. This is a good chance to highlight just how spotty laws are around this country for this sort of thing. My husband and I covered every possible legal contingency when we got married, but our lawyers told us that even for all our preparations we would still be subject to the whim of whatever jurisdiction we would be in. Nothing is ironclad in America for gay couples.

    Don't single out AT&T here (although it would be an excellent show of good faith if they stepped up), blame the lawmakers who refuse to give us the basic protections everyone else has.

    Posted by: MT | Jan 29, 2010 2:11:39 PM

  13. I see precisely who the Bad Guys are -- KAPOS like you!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 29, 2010 2:12:46 PM

  14. That's just mean spirited. Would it kill them to let a guy off for a few weeks? It's not like he's the only person that works there.They do know we're the ones with all the iPhones, right?

    Posted by: Sigh | Jan 29, 2010 2:17:34 PM

  15. So, if this couple were in New Jersey or Massachusetts there would be no question about AT&T granting them FMLA? Can local/regional branches of AT&T be responsible for injustices like this one?

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jan 29, 2010 2:18:15 PM

  16. I can not fuckin' believe there are fuckin' queers on here defending AT&T. They can make their own rules you idiots as can any company. They do not have to follow state laws when it comes to employee benefits.

    Stop being a bunch of Aunt Toms and support your people.

    Posted by: Bobby | Jan 29, 2010 2:20:31 PM

  17. I wonder what the openly gay (and partnered) President of AT&T California thinks about this? Maybe he should call his colleague in Texas.

    Posted by: Jeff | Jan 29, 2010 2:22:39 PM

  18. This is just vile. I was actually planning on getting an iPhone this weekend (and thus switching to AT&T), but now I won't. And I intend to contact both AT&T and Apple to let them know why.

    Posted by: E. | Jan 29, 2010 2:23:03 PM

  19. prying the iPhones out of the hands of gay men across America is a hard option (if there were to be a boycott over this) -- shouldn't someone (like HRC) go negotiate this away for everyone's benefit? What is HRC doing anyway?

    Posted by: David B. 2 | Jan 29, 2010 2:26:37 PM

  20. I haven't done business with AT&T in ages and don't plan on doing any business with them any time soon.. iphone or not. They're customer service is horrid, they up sell packages people really don't need, raise rates with no notice... a whole lot of bait & switching IMO. This is just really icing on the cake. Sure AT&T will say "we're just following the law" and they would be right about that, but that doesn't preclude a company from doing a good deed.

    Posted by: Darren | Jan 29, 2010 2:27:04 PM

  21. I found this comment on the actual news story and gave this officer a call. His secretary took my name and number and asked if I'd be available for someone to call me back:

    I am deeply disturbed by this story.

    I did some research, and found a direct phone number to the office of John J. Stephens, Senior Vice President and Controller for AT&T, Inc. He is the one who signs all AT&T financial reports to the SEC.

    The direct line to his office is:
    (214) 757-3220.

    A very nice lady answered the phone and I explained to her my upset over this issue and stated I'd cancel my AT&T service. She took down Mr. Dickenson's name, looked up this news story online at Dallas Voice, and showed a lot of empathy. PLEASE BE COURTEOUS TO HER!

    I would encourage readers to call Mr. Stephen's office and register your dissatisfaction with AT&T.

    Who knows... it just might make a difference!

    Posted by: Brian Chicago | Jan 29, 2010 2:28:14 PM

  22. "Kinda reminds me of how we're generally treated by the Democratic Party -- lots of lip-service (sure, we'll accept your donation) but no real legislative support when we need it."

    No real legislative support except, in the past year alone, the passage of major hate-crime legislation and the repeal of the HIV travel ban? And now, real movement on repealing DADT? These anti-Dem talking points are getting a little stale.

    Posted by: Biff | Jan 29, 2010 2:28:54 PM

  23. Thanks for the email AMO. I just sent a letter to AT & T and will post the info on Facebook. I am sickened by their bigotry. And as a longtime customer, will quickly switch carriers if this isn't resolved.

    Posted by: Sam | Jan 29, 2010 2:32:56 PM

  24. Guess what, next year AT&T will still have a 100% score from HRC.

    Posted by: Miles | Jan 29, 2010 2:33:39 PM

  25. Do we have contact info for AT&T?? Given how many gay men have the iPhone, I say we have a voice!!

    Posted by: Trace | Jan 29, 2010 2:34:03 PM

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