In June 2015, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages across the country. Members of the LGBT community, however, still face many legal battles regarding how this ruling will be implemented in individual states. One of the biggest questions that still needs to be answered is how the ruling will affect the benefits packages an employer provides to its employees.
Impact on Employee Benefit Packages
The Supreme Court decision will impact employees’ benefits packages in several ways. First, if prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling a company extended benefits to heterosexual spouses, it will be expected to extend those same benefits to homosexual spouses. The decision also likely will impact coverage for domestic partnerships; employers may now require that employees be married in order to be eligible to receive benefits which could adversely affect those employees who do not wish to take the “public” step of getting married to their partners. For those employers who provide to their employees fully-insured medical plans, the Court’s decision mandates that same-sex spouse coverage be added to those plans (though this would not necessarily apply for self-insured plans). Finally, following the ruling, insurance provided through Medicaid and the federal insurance marketplace will be expanded to include same-sex marriage coverage.
Same-sex couples who marry are not automatically granted the protection of the employment discrimination laws. Most states’ employment discrimination laws do not yet include provisions related to married, homosexual couples. Employers should be aware that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that employment discrimination against LGBT employees violates the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
What’s Next for Employers?
Employers across the nation must ensure that their benefits packages are structured in ways that meet the new requirements, or they may be exposing themselves to potential litigation. Employers are free to expand, reduce and restructure benefits plans for their employees, but they must remain compliant with the law. In order to do so and to best minimize litigation risks, employers will need to update their handbooks and revise internal benefits enrollment processes and forms to reflect these changes in the law.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers Provide Legal Counsel for Companies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Employers who are concerned about how the new law may affect their businesses should contact one of the skilled Philadelphia employment lawyers at The Ezold Law Firm, P.C. We understand the nuances of both state and federal employment laws and can offer advice and legal representation to your company. Please call 610-660-5585 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation.