Question of the Month

July 2017

Question
Must an employer in your area provide benefits for an employee's domestic partner - whether same sex or opposite sex?
Answer from Alabama

No in Alabama.

For more information please contact David Middlebrooks at dmiddlebrooks@lehrmiddlebrooks.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from California

Yes in California.

For more information please contact Erin Winters at ewinters@fosteremploymentlaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Florida

There is no state-wide law requiring Florida employers to provide domestic partnership benefits. Though an employer may be required to offer domestic partner benefits under local law. Several Florida municipalities, including West Palm Beach and Broward County, provide domestic partner registries and extend benefits to domestic partners.

For more information please contact Wayne Helsby at WHelsby@anblaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Hawaii

Hawaii does not recognize “domestic partners,” per se, but Hawaii does recognize “reciprocal beneficiaries” and “civil union partners.”  There is no specific law that requires employment benefits to be provided to reciprocal beneficiaries or to civil union partners, but some “benefits” (such as Hawaii family leave) will necessarily be provided to civil union partners because the civil union law redefines the term “spouse” in other Hawaii statutes (such as the Hawaii Family Leave Law, which requires that covered employers grant eligible employees time off to care for a “spouse” with a serious health condition) to include civil union partners.  If civil union partners tend to be of the same gender, then it is possible that denying other types of employment benefits would have a disparate impact based on sexual orientation and could thereby result in a discrimination claim under Hawaii law.

For more information please contact Sarah Wang at SWang@marrjones.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Maryland

No in Maryland.

For more information please contact Fiona Ong at fwo@shawe.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Massachusetts

Same-sex couples residing in Massachusetts have been able to marry since May 17, 2004. Employers in Massachusetts are required to provide the same benefits, such as health insurance, to employees in same-sex marriages as provided to employees in opposite-sex marriages. Employees with same-sex spouses are entitled to family leave benefits and deductions provided for under state tax laws.

For more information please contact Marylou Fabbo at mfabbo@skoler-abbott.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Michigan

No state law requires payment of benefits to domestic partners.  In 2004 Michigan voters approved a ballot initiative that prohibited public employers from offering benefits to same-sex couples.  In 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court found the act to be constitutional.  In 2011, the prohibition was codified at  MCL 15.583.  However, in 2014, a federal judge declared the statute unconstitutional.  Bassett v. Snyder, 59 F. Supp. 3d 837 (E.D. Mich. 2014).

For more information please contact Bill Pilchak at wpilchak@mi-worklaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Minnesota

Minnesota does not require employers to provide domestic-partnership benefits.

For more information please contact Doug Seaton at dseaton@seatonlaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Missouri

No in Missouri.

For more information please contact Stephen Maule at maule@mcmahonberger.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Nevada

Pursuant to NRS 122A.210, public and private employers are not required to offer, but are not prohibited from offering, health care benefits to domestic partners of employees.

For more information please contact Scott Abbott at SAbbott@kzalaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from New York

New York State law does not mandate that private employers provide health insurance benefits to domestic partners, even if such benefits are made available to employees’ spouses.  New York City public employees, however, are generally entitled to add registered domestic partners to their health care coverage on the same terms as they would spouses.  Also, certain statutory benefits in New York State (e.g., the Paid Leave Law, discussed above) and New York City (e.g., the New York City Earned Sick Time Act) grant benefits on equal terms to employees with either a spouse or a domestic partner.

For more information please contact John Keil at jkeil@cfk-law.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from North Carolina

No in North Carolina.

For more information please contact Bryan Adams at bryan.adams@vradlaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Ohio

Not applicable in Ohio.

For more information please contact Emily Gelhaus at ejg@drgfirm.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Oregon

The Oregon Family Fairness Act extends the rights of married couples under state law to same-sex couples in a registered domestic partnership. Opposite-sex partners may not register as domestic partners in Oregon and employers are not required to recognize domestic partnerships registered outside of Oregon.

In general, federal ERISA regulation preempts state law, including Oregon’s Family Fairness Act, as it applies to employer provided benefits. For purposes of federal employee benefits law and federal tax law, the terms “spouse” and “marriage” do not include domestic partners and domestic partnerships. Therefore, employee benefit plans subject to federal ERISA regulation may, but are not required, to extend benefits to same-gender domestic partners.

ERISA does not apply to employee benefit plans established or maintained by governmental entities, churches for their employees, or plans which are maintained solely to comply with applicable workers compensation, unemployment, or disability laws. Oregon’s Family Fairness Act requires employers to provide most non-ERISA governed benefits to same-gender domestic partners in the same way that they would provide those benefits to married employees. Benefits that fall into this category include spousal coverage under Oregon-insured group health and life insurance plans, payments to employees out of the employer’s general assets for leaves of absence or paid time off related to spousal relationships, employer-sponsored scholarship programs which are paid out of the employer’s general assets for which a spouse is eligible, employee discounts or memberships, certain stock option and stock purchase plans, and some types of child care assistance plans.

For more information please contact Randi Ensley at rensley@bullardlaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has not legislated a requirement for employers to provide benefits to unmarried domestic partners. Pennsylvania has, however, effectively recognized same-sex marriage, per the decision of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Whitewood v. Wolf, 992 F. Supp. 2d 410 (M.D. Pa. 2014).  Therefore, PA employers must provide benefits to spouses in a valid same-sex marriage to the same degree it provides benefits to other married couples.

For more information please contact John Ellis at jellis@ufberglaw.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Virginia

Virginia law allows employers to offer group accident and sickness insurance policies that cover (in addition to spouses, children, and other dependents) “any other class of persons as may mutually be agreed upon by the insurer and the group policyholder.”  Va. Code Ann. Section 38.2-3525.  This broadly-worded provision permits (but does not require) employers and insurers to offer health and life insurance to domestic partners (whether same sex or opposite sex).  Note, however, that Virginia local governments are currently barred from providing self-funded health insurance to their employees’ domestic partners by the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision in Arlington County v. White, 259 Va. 708 (2000), where the court held that a local government (in this case, Arlington County) exceeded its authority to provide self-funded health insurance when it extended coverage to domestic partners of county employees.

For more information please contact Susan Carnell at scarnell@lorengercarnell.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Washington

Yes, if it is a State Registered Domestic Partnership (SRDP), which is deemed the equivalent of marriage under state law. Since June 30, 2014, based on the state legalizing same-sex marriage, an SRDP is available only when at least one of the partners is 62 years of age or older.

For more information please contact Ken Diamond at ken@winterbauerdiamond.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

Answer from Wisconsin

In June 2009, the Wisconsin legislature passed 2009 Wisconsin Act 28, which established a statewide domestic partnership registry. Registered domestic partners in Wisconsin are afforded some benefits including leave under Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act. However, an employer is not required to provide other benefits for an employee’s domestic partner. As such, an employer's decision to provide such benefits is permissive, not mandatory.  Additionally, the definition of domestic partner under Wis. Stat. § 770.01 requires that domestic partners be members of the same sex.

For more information please contact Laurie Petersen at LPetersen@lindner-marsack.com

*Disclaimer: All answers to the Question of the Month are current the day on which they are posted. After this date, the information may subsequently change as a result of laws or rulings. For the most current information, please contact the responding lawyer for each state in which you are interested.

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