From left, Jason Tylenda with children Lily Tylenda, Langston Howley and partner Kevin Howley. Photo courtesy of Howleys.

Lear Corporation To Offer Domestic Partner Benefits

By Crystal A. Proxmire

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Lear Corporation, an international Tier One supplier of automotive electrical and seating components, will begin offering domestic partner benefits on March 1. With 110,000 employees in 207 facilities in 36 countries, the company hopes that offering benefits to same-sex partners of employees will help them keep a strong and diverse workforce.

"Talent comes in all shapes and sizes. This was a no brainer for us," said Tom DiDonato, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Lear. "We did a review of our benefits, as we periodically do to see where we're current. And this was a pretty obvious gap. It was about a 30 second meeting to approve it. Pretty much it was 'Let's do this, let's do this now.' And we did."

Senior Manager Ron Miotke, who has been with Lear for about 15 years, has always been happy with his employment there. In the early 90s, while also serving on the board of directors of the Triangle Foundation, Miotke helped bring the need for an inclusive human rights policy to the attention of corporate leadership. The company has long vowed to not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Miotke is glad to see benefits being added now as well.

Miotke and his partner were legally married in Massachusetts two years ago after being together for 15 years. His partner works at AT&T, a corporation that already provides him benefits and provides domestic partner benefits to those who need them. So while Miotke won't be taking advantage of the new offering, he sees the benefits in providing care to all employees and their families.

"Lear is being a good corporate citizen," Miotke said. He explained how the change came about. "Jason Tylenda was hired on at Lear. He was going through new employee orientation handled by CEO Matt Simoncini. Matt wanted a question and answer session with new employees, and (the employee) spoke up."

"When is Lear going to join the Detroit Three and the majority of the Fortune 500 companies in offering domestic partner benefits to its employees?" Tylenda asked in the meeting. Instantly there was a response, with Simoncini telling Tylenda that benefits would be added for 2013.

Much Needed Benefits

Tylenda's family will be using the benefits. "My partner and I have two kids. The fact that both children are covered is significant to us. My partner, who does a lot of short-term, contractual jobs, doesn't have regular health care. The fact that I can provide for my family is important. The fact that his name is on my policy speaks volumes."

He added that taking the job, as a senior buyer for Lear was a tough decision because they didn't offer partner benefits at the time he was hired. "I thought that I could work for a few years within Lear to get domestic partner benefits added, but then I was surprised that it happened so quickly. It was a sticking point. But I am pleased and proud of the fact that Lear added this, and that it happened so simply."

CEO Simoncini sent a memo to employees about the addition. "I have previously stated that a core value to Lear is diversity and inclusion. It is my sincere belief that our diversity makes us stronger and also makes good business sense. Research consistently shows that fair and equal treatment promotes a business's ability to attract and retain the brightest and the best employees. Work environments that foster diversity and inclusion, like Lear, can create limitless opportunities for creativity and engagement, ultimately resulting in a competitive advantage," Simoncini wrote.

"Consistent with the Company's position on supporting diversity and inclusion, I am pleased to announce that Lear will begin providing same gender partner health care benefits for its U.S. employees beginning March 1, 2013.

"At Lear, we view this as a progressive and proactive next step in our approach to embracing diversity and inclusion, demonstrating a level of fairness and equal treatment of our most important asset...the employees of Lear."

To learn more about Lear, check out their website at http://www.lear.com.

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