In a case that has obvious implications for employee benefit plans, the Veterans’ Administration (“VA”) has just provided survivor benefits to the partner of a service member, even though the partners were not married before the service member’s death.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. For employers, this decision raises the issue of what changes must be made in employee benefits to reflect the decision.
For this purpose, we will look at three categories of employers: those that have already been offering benefits to same-sex spouses, those that have not previously offered benefits to same-sex spouses, and those that have been offering benefits to domestic partners.
Federal law contains provisions forbidding discrimination based on several classifications: race, sex, veteran status, etc. However, no federal law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. As a result, many employers in states which do not have their own legislation barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status have assumed that no laws prohibited such discrimination.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has now called this assumption into question, by bringing several lawsuits treating discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status as a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This issue is a focus of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013-2016. Read more.
Carol V. Calhoun was interviewed for a piece on National Public Radio’s “Here and Now” program called, “State Tax Laws ‘A Mess,’ For Same Sex-Couples and Employers,” which aired today. You can listen to the segment at this link, a summary and transcript can be found here, and the chart referenced in the story is available at this link..
Carol V. Calhoun‘s article, “State Taxes and Married Same-Sex Couples,” has now been published in Baltimore OUTloud. This article discusses the different approaches that each of the states has taken for state tax purposes, in the wake of the federal government’s decision to treat same-sex married couples are married for federal tax purposes.
Carol V. Calhoun‘s article, “Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decisions Create New Rules for Employee Benefit Plans,” has now been published in Baltimore OUTloud. The article discusses the effect of the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and the subsequent guidance by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor on employee benefit plans.
Michigan Public Act 297 (“Act”) prohibits public employers from providing medical and other fringe benefits to any person cohabitating with a public employee unless that person is legally married to the employee, or is a legal dependent, or eligible to inherit under the State’s intestacy laws. In a June 28 decision, U.S. District Judge David Lawson (E.D. Mich.) has issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Act based on a finding that the plaintiffs (same-sex couples of which one works for a Michigan local government) “have stated a viable claim based on the Equal Protection Clause on which they are likely to succeed.”