Hinman v. Department of Personnel Admin.

Decision Date29 April 1985
Citation167 Cal.App.3d 516,213 Cal.Rptr. 410
Parties, 37 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1246, 6 Employee Benefits Cas. 1575 Boyce HINMAN, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. DEPARTMENT OF PERSONNEL ADMINISTRATION, et al., Defendants and Respondents. Civ. 23749.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Roberta Achtenberg and Donna J. Hitchens, Lesbian Rights Project, San Francisco, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Bernard L. Allamano, Gary P. Reynolds, Sacramento, Linda Stoick, Law Offices of Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Robertson & Falk, Therese M. Stewart, San Francisco, as amici curiae on behalf of plaintiffs and appellants.

Jeffrey L. Gunther, Sacramento, and Christine A. Bologna, San Diego, for defendants and respondents.

REGAN, Associate Justice.

In this appeal we consider whether the denial of dental benefit coverage to unmarried partners of homosexual state employees unlawfully discriminates against the employees and violates either the equal protection clause of the California Constitution or an executive order prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation in state government. Plaintiffs Hinman and Advocates for Gay and Lesbian State Employees (Advocates) claim the State Employees' Dental Care Act (Gov.Code, § 22950, et seq.) 1 and the interpretation given it by the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA) to qualify dependent members of employees' families necessarily excludes same-sex partners from enrollment in the state dental plan. Because they may not marry same-sex partners, plaintiffs claim DPA's classification We do not view the Dental Care Act or its interpretation by DPA as establishing any classification on the basis of sexual orientation, and thus, we shall not afford a strict scrutiny analysis to this case. We hold denial of dental care benefits to partners of homosexual state employees does not violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

of family members, particularly spouses, is based not solely on marital status, but also on sexual orientation. Accordingly, they assert strict scrutiny of that classification is required, because classifications based on sexual orientation should be viewed as "suspect."

Plaintiffs had filed in the trial court a petition for writ of mandate for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking a commandment to enroll Hinman's "family partner," and others similarly situated, in the state dental plan. They also sought a permanent injunction requiring DPA to develop an "administrative procedure" to determine eligibility for dental benefits of "family partners" of an unidentified number of male and female homosexual state employees. The trial court sustained DPA's demurrer without leave to amend, finding no violation of equal protection under the California Constitution or Executive Order B-54-79 as a matter of law. The California State Employees' Association and Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom joined plaintiffs as amici curiae in appealing the order sustaining the demurrer.

The instant order is a nonappealable order (Code Civ.Proc., § 904.1), and the record reveals no judgment of dismissal was entered on the demurrer. In the interest of justice and to prevent further delay, we will deem the order sustaining DPA's demurrer to incorporate a judgment of dismissal. Accordingly, the ruling and order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend is modified by adding a paragraph dismissing the action. (Bellah v. Greenson (1978) 81 Cal.App.3d 614, 618, fn. 1, 146 Cal.Rptr. 535, fn. 1; Nystrom v. First Nat. Bank of Fresno (1978) 81 Cal.App.3d 759, 762-763, 146 Cal.Rptr. 711.) In light of our conclusions herein, we affirm that judgment dismissing the petition.

A. Procedural Background

The facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff Hinman is an employee of the Employment Development Department (EDD), a state agency. Hinman is a homosexual and at the time of filing the petition, had lived with Larry Beatty for over 12 years. In their complaint and throughout this proceeding, plaintiffs identify Hinman's homosexual partner as his "mate," "spouse," or "family partner." 2 Hinman and Beatty own their home together, place their assets in a joint bank account, share the common necessities of life, and are each other's primary beneficiaries in their wills and life insurance policies. Hinman and Beatty have entered into a covenant of mutual economic support and would marry if they were not prohibited from doing so by state law.

On December 7, 1981, plaintiff applied for dental coverage for himself and Beatty under the pre-paid group dental plan offered through his state employment. The next day he was informed by the payroll services section of EDD that, based on instructions from DPA, Beatty had been deleted from his dental plan enrollment. On January 29, 1982, plaintiff filed a letter of grievance with DPA complaining of DPA's denial of coverage for Beatty. On September 8, 1982, DPA denied the grievance "on the basis that [the] 'family member' does not qualify as a spouse or dependent under existing contracts or statutes."

Hinman, joined by Advocates, filed the petition for writ of mandate for declaratory relief and injunctive relief on December 29, 1982. DPA responded by way of demurrer and, after a hearing, the parties submitted the matter on the pleadings and supporting papers. The trial court sustained DPA's demurrer without leave to amend.

B. Statutory and Administrative Background

The Governor's Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1981, enacted January 1981, established DPA as the agency responsible for managing the nonmerit aspects of the state personnel system, including state employee benefits and the terms and conditions of employment. (Stats.1981, ch. 230, § 55, pp. 1168-1232.) Section 19815.4, subdivision (g) designates DPA as the Governor's representative for purposes of section 3517, which requires the Governor or his representative "meet and confer in good faith" with recognized employee organizations. That section is part of the State Employer-Employee Relations Act ( §§ 3512, et seq.) which provides for collective bargaining of certain terms and conditions of state employment.

After meeting and conferring, the Governor's representative [DPA] and the recognized employee organizations are authorized by section 3517.5 to jointly prepare written memoranda of understanding (hereinafter "MOU") if agreement is reached. MOU's, including terms governing dental benefits, have been negotiated for the 20 bargaining units represented by exclusive representatives.

In 1980, the Legislature enacted the State Employees' Dental Care Act (the Act). ( §§ 22950-22952 (Stats.1980, ch. 1039, § 1-2, p. 3320), as amended by §§ 22950-22958 (Stats.1982, ch. 825, p. 3134, § 1-3).) The statute authorizes the state to negotiate and to contract with insurance carriers for dental care coverage for state employees and annuitants. 3 The Act further provides, however, that the state may enter into such contracts after it negotiates with recognized employee organizations over the terms and conditions to be included in the dental contracts, if the Legislature appropriates the necessary funds. ( § 22952.) The Act makes no reference to persons to be covered by the dental plans other than the employee or annuitant. Under provisions of the Act, DPA negotiated with the 20 exclusive representatives and signed MOU's providing for dental coverage.

The initial legislative funding for the state dental plan was obtained in the Budget Act of 1981. (Stats.1981, ch. 99.) Six months later, negotiations with recognized employee organizations and qualifying dental plan carriers resulted in final dental contracts effective January 1, 1982. Through these negotiations, two insurance carriers were selected to provide dental coverage to rank and file employees, namely, Private Medical Care, Incorporated (PMI) and California-Western States/Trans-America Occidental (Cal-West). Neither of the two contracts provide dental benefits to anyone other than spouses and dependent children of state employees. 4 Dental care under the terms In administering the State Dental Plan, DPA has used the definitions of terms found in Public Employees' Medical and Hospital Care Act 5 ( §§ 22751, et seq.) (hereinafter Health Care Act), including definitions for "employee," "annuitant," and "family member." The Dental Care Act contains no definitions. Instead, the definitions are set forth in the immediately preceding Health Care Act. That act defines "family member" in section 22754, subdivision (f): " 'Family member' means an employee's or annuitant's spouse and any unmarried child (including an adopted child, a stepchild, or recognized natural child who lives with the employee or annuitant in a regular parent-child relationship). The board shall, by regulation, prescribe age limits and other conditions and limitations pertaining to unmarried children."

of existing plans, including eligibility for coverage, benefit levels and premiums paid by the employer, continued through fiscal year 1982-83, funded by the Budget Act of 1982 (Stats.1982, ch. 326) and following negotiations with exclusive representatives and insurance carriers. Dental care coverage under the same terms of eligibility and benefit levels, but with increased premiums paid by the state employer, was negotiated with the unions and insurers for fiscal year 1983-84 and funded in the Budget Act of 1983. (Stats.1983, ch. 324.)

According to the declaration of Julie D. Kerk, chief of the employee compensation branch at DPA, who is responsible for the administration of the state dental plan, the reason for using the same definitions is that both statutes contained identical purpose clauses, 6 and because bids would be solicited for dental plan coverage from insurance carriers currently providing health benefits plan coverage...

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