Same-Sex Couples and Shared Employment Benefits in California

The laws surrounding work benefits and same-sex couples have evolved rapidly, so staying up to date is essential to avoid any lawsuits. Here are some of the most important details you should know to stay safe.


Implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages

When the U.S Supreme court issued its decision to strike down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act in the United States v. Winsor case, it legalized same-sex marriage at least at the federal level. This was to hopefully, open the doors for such couple to enjoy same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

This has, however, not been the case across the entire US. Some states are yet to adopt and implement this shift. One of the areas that same-sex couples expected to enjoy equal rights as the heterosexual couples were in the Shared Employment Benefits.

Turning to California, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013 but the Supreme court’s ruling expanded same-sex marriage rights across the US and is having an impact in California. Employers in this state must now treat their employees in opposite-sex and same-sex marriages equally for both state and federal law purposes.

With this requirement in place, now there are new possibilities concerning shared employee benefits in California.

Shared Employment Benefits in California in the Workplace

Six things one should know concerning employee benefits for same-sex couples in California are:

  1. Cobra coverage: Same-sex couples have COBRA election rights. These allow them to continue insurance coverage but for a limited time under certain circumstances such as divorce and job loss.
  2. ERISA benefit plans: these couples have just the same rights as the heterosexual couples to ERISA retirement plants as well as health plans and other workplace benefits.
  3. FMLA or the Family and Medical Leave Act which holds that same-sex couples are to be considered a family member/spouse as far as taking FMLA leave are concerned.
  4. HIPAA: special insurance enrollment rights under this arrangement apply to same-sex couples
  5. Flexible spending accounts: Eligible employees may make use of their Flexible spending accounts, Health savings accounts, and health reimbursement accounts for the expenses of these couples.
  6. Health plan taxes: The health plan benefits that are provided to the same-sex employee’s spouse are not to be subjected to federal or state income taxes.

Some FAQs

  1. Will our marriage be treated the same in California if we are married in the District of Columbia, or in the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, or New

Hampshire, or in Canada or another foreign country in which same-sex marriages are legal? For the most part, each area has different rules but they will honor most of what California does.

  1. Will all same-sex domestic partners and same-sex spouses be eligible for benefits? Again, it depends on the state and their laws, but in California, the answer is yes.
  • What documentation will be required by the State employee/retiree in order to add a same-sex domestic partner to the coverage? A marriage license will suffice in most states.
  1. Will the dependent child(ren) of same-sex domestic partners or same-sex spouses also be eligible for benefits? Yes, as long as there is proof that they are your child or your spouse’s child.
  2. Can parents of employees be covered under this new eligibility expansion? If the company allows for this, then it should not be an issue.
  3. Is my domestic partner/spouse eligible to continue health benefits coverage if I pass away? Again, it depends on the companies insurance carrier and what they allow for.