State investigates four area O’Reilly Auto Parts stores for discrimination
by Jack Mayne
O’Reilly Auto Parts – which runs four auto parts stores in South King County – is being investigated by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office to determine if the company is refusing to provide healthcare benefits to same-sex spouses of Washington state employees that it provides for opposite-sex spouses.
The attorney general on Monday (March 17) filed a petition in King County Superior Court to enforce an investigative demand.
After receiving a consumer complaint, the Attorney General’s Office is investigating O’Reilly, which it says refuses to produce any documents related to its alleged decision not to provide these benefits.
The South King County stores are at:
- 9627 17th Ave. South, White Center
- 15500 First Ave. South, Burien
- 21105 International Blvd., SeaTac
- 11610 Des Moines Memorial Drive in Boulevard Park
O’Reilly, based in Springfield, Mo., operates a chain of retail auto parts stores across the country with approximately 147 stores and 2,194 employees in Washington state.
“In Washington, you cannot deny healthcare benefits based on sexual orientation. Under Washington law, if a business provides benefits to opposite-sex spouses, it must provide them to same-sex spouses,” said Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson.
He said the Consumer Protection Division initiated an investigation after an O’Reilly’s employee in the state complained that the company told her it would not provide healthcare benefits to the employee’s same-sex spouse.
The investigation seeks to determine whether O’Reilly violated the Washington State Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices.
O’Reilly was given ample time to respond to a request for information, “but the company has made it clear it has no intention of fully complying with this request,” Ferguson said.
After all requested information is received, the Attorney General will review the material and consider next steps, including the possibility of filing a lawsuit.
Sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful in Washington. In addition to other protections, the Consumer Protection Act broadly prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in trade or commerce, including acts that would discriminate against consumers in a commercial setting.
In 2012, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 6239, legalizing same-sex marriage. Opponents garnered enough signatures to refer the measure to voters. Voters approved Referendum 74 by nearly 54 percent at the November election — making Washington one of the first three states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.