Pennsylvania same-sex marriage ruling means employers should study policies

May 21, 2014 0 COMMENTS

On May 20, Pennsylvania became the latest state to have its same-sex marriage ban barred when a federal district judge struck down the state’s 1994 law.

The decision, which followed a similar ruling in Oregon a day earlier, makes Pennsylvania the 19th state to allow same-sex marriage. After the ruling, Governor Tom Corbett said he would consider whether to appeal Judge John E. Jones III’s decision.

If the ruling stands, Pennsylvania employers will need to examine their policies to make sure they don’t discriminate against same-sex couples. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take leave to care for family members, including same-sex spouses, with a serious medical condition. Employer-sponsored benefits for married couples also will need to be extended to same-sex couples.

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Employers need to be ready for end of Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban

May 20, 2014 0 COMMENTS

The end of Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage means employers need to take a look at their benefits policies and what laws require in terms of married couples.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ruled on May 19 that the ban on same-sex marriage, which was added to the state constitution after voters passed Measure 36 in 2004, violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling made Oregon the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage. Then on May 20, Pennsylvania joined took the list to 19 states when another federal judge overturned that state’s ban. In addition to the 19 states, Washington, D.C., also allows same-sex marriages.

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Illinois same-sex marriage law will spawn employment issues

November 08, 2013 0 COMMENTS

by Steven L. Brenneman

On November 5, both houses of the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages. Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the bill into law. If he does, it will take effect in June 2014.

The new law will affect Illinois employers in several ways. Regarding employee benefits, employers will need to treat same-sex spouses the same way they treat opposite-sex spouses. The law will have ramifications on retirement plans and employer-sponsored health plans with spousal coverage.

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Rhode Island, federal law changes affect how employers treat same-sex married couples

July 16, 2013 0 COMMENTS

by Matthew H. Parker

A series of amendments to Rhode Island law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision in United States v. Windsor have changed how most Rhode Island employers must treat same-sex married couples.

Under the amendments, which go into effect on August 1, anyone who is eligible to marry in Rhode Island will be able to marry any other eligible person “regardless of gender.” Also, Rhode Island will recognize valid same-sex marriages from other states.

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Delaware same-sex marriage changes take effect July 1

June 17, 2013 0 COMMENTS

The amendment to the Delaware Domestic Relations Act legalizing same-sex marriage goes into effect July 1. Under the law, the same rights, benefits, protections, and legal responsibilities apply to married same-sex couples and married opposite-sex couples.

In 2012, Delaware’s Civil Union Equality Act (CUEA) established that civil unions are to be treated as marriages under state law, so employers shouldn’t see much change as a result of the legalization of same-sex marriages. One exception is if your business provides marriage-related services (for instance, a facility that rents out rooms for wedding receptions). In that case, if you refuse to provide marriage-related services to same-sex couples, you could be subject to a discrimination claim under the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law.

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Colorado civil union law takes effect May 1

April 25, 2013 0 COMMENTS

by Rebecca Hudson

Colorado’s new civil union law goes into effect May 1, meaning Colorado joins eight other states that permit civil unions or have similar laws that recognize them. Nine other states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.

Under the Colorado Civil Union Act, the state will recognize civil unions entered into by same-sex and opposite-sex couples, granting rights afforded to traditionally married couples. But unlike a marriage, a civil union doesn’t provide federal protections or responsibilities. For example, under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal programs define marriage as “between one man and one woman.” If a Colorado employer remains governed by federal law, any benefits it offers won’t be extended to partners in a civil union.

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Maryland same-sex marriage law goes into effect January 1

December 14, 2012 0 COMMENTS

by Kevin C. McCormick

Maryland’s new law allowing same-sex marriage takes effect January 1, 2013, meaning employers need to understand what changes are in store for the workplace.

The General Assembly passed the law legalizing same-sex marriage that Governor Martin O’Malley signed on March 12, 2012. However, the new law was on hold until Maryland voters decided to uphold it in a referendum held November 6.

Now that the law has been approved, Maryland employers are obligated to apply it in the workplace. Administering benefits to employees in same-sex marriages may be problematic. For example, while the federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides certain benefits to spouses, it isn’t clear if spousal benefits will apply to employees in same-sex marriages since the federal Defense of Marriage Act bars such individuals from receiving federal rights or benefits, regardless of whether state benefits are permitted.

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Memorandum Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Executive Branch Employees

June 03, 2010 0 COMMENTS

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed a federal memorandum requiring executive agencies to extend to same-sex partners the employment benefits equivalent to those granted to opposite-sex partners. The memorandum expands benefits previously provided to same-sex partners in an executive memorandum signed last October and is the latest in a handful of government moves to preserve rights and benefits for gay individuals. This most recent action, as well as the ongoing review of the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, suggests a favorable atmosphere for the consideration and possible passage of the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

ENDA would provide job protections for gay and transgendered workers by prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Though the bill has seen no official action in Congress since committee hearings late last year, U.S. House of Representatives proponents of the bill have been counting votes to determine whether to bring the bill to the floor, perhaps as soon as this month.

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Obama Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees

June 18, 2009 0 COMMENTS

President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination June 17 at an Oval Office event. The memorandum addresses the benefits to which same-sex partners of federal employees may be entitled and is a result of internal reviews conducted by the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the secretary of state over the past several months. The reviews were performed to determine which benefits could be extended to same-sex partners of federal employees in the civil and foreign services under existing federal laws and statutes.

According to a fact sheet on the memorandum released by the White House, the reviews identified several benefits that could be extended to federal employees’ domestic partners. Same-sex partners of civil service employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program. Further, supervisors can be required to allow civil service employees to use their sick leave to take care of their same-sex partners and non-biological, non-adopted children.

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