Marriage Equality & Employee Benefits Recap

by | Jul 8, 2015 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S.marriage equality

On June 26, the Supreme Court ruled that all states must allow and recognize same-sex marriages.

We know what this means for same-sex couples. But what does it mean for employers?

There are a few considerations employers must now take into account, particularly concerning employee benefits. Let’s explore:

Employee Benefits:

You will need to ensure that benefits offered to or mentioning “spouses” are applied to the spouses of all legally married employees, including those in same-sex marriages. Most employer benefit policies already use the word “spouse,” so most of the changes will be procedural.

Three of the most likely benefit changes are:

• If you offer health insurance benefits to spouses, extend the benefits to same-sex spouses.
• For family leave policies, include same-sex spouses in the defined category of “family member.”
• Cover same-sex partners in your pension and retirement plans in the same manner as opposite-sex spouses.

Be sure to review your benefit plan documents, forms, policies and employee handbooks for language. Ensure that the language used covers same-sex as well as opposite-sex spouses.

*Some employers have chosen to offer additional domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples in recognition of the inability up until now (in some states) to cover them as married. Those employers will need to decide whether to retain the benefit and, if so, whether to extend it to opposite-sex unmarried couples.

Remember Equality:

Equality is the name of the game. You don’t want to treat either opposite or same-sex couples differently. Be careful to follow the same administrative procedures for all married employees. For example, if you do not require a marriage certificate to verify spousal status for opposite-sex couples, don’t require it from same-sex couples.

Need more info? Or need help making these changes? We can help.

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