7 things employers need to know about the same-sex marriage decision
The Supreme Court’s recent decision that states are required to recognize as legal a marriage between two people of the same sex has lasting implications on employers that some industry experts are still deciphering. Here are 7 things employers need to know about the decision, according to Cherry Creek Benefits.
1) FMLA leave
Same-sex spouses will be deemed spouses under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) no matter where the marriage took place or where the employee resides.
What employers should do: Update FMLA policies, forms and practices to permit FMLA leave.
2) Bereavement and other leaves
Same-sex spouses now qualify for benefits if an employer offers bereavement leave for the death of a spouse or in-laws, as well as any other leaves that define immediate family or extend to familial situations, such as non-FMLA medical leave or military leave.
What employers should do: Update bereavement and other leave policies, forms and practices
3) Marital status discrimination
If an employer operates in states that prohibit discrimination based on an employee’s or applicant’s marital status, the employer will be prohibited from discriminating based on same-sex marriages.
What employers should do: Update policies regarding discrimination based on same-sex marriages.
4) Emergency contacts and beneficiaries
Employees with a same-sex spouse may want to update their emergency contact or beneficiary information listed on group life insurance or retirement plans.
What employers should do: Be prepared to administer emergency contact and beneficiary changes.
5) Employee benefits
Group insurance, retirement and other employee benefit plans will need to be reviewed and updated.
What employers should do: Aside from advice from a benefit adviser, the employer should also consult an attorney and plan administrators for advice on required changes.
6) W-4 forms and tax updates
In light of potential income tax implications for newly recognized same-sex spouses, some employees may want to change their tax withholding information.
What employers should do: Prepare to update W-4 and state withholding amounts upon request.
7) The bottom line
These and additional policies and procedures impacted by the court’s ruling may require that employers update their employee handbook, policies on their intranet, plan documents, forms, beneficiary designations and other personnel documents. The court’s landmark decision grants “equal dignity in the eyes of the law” to same-sex couples.
What employers should do: Review employment policies and practices to ensure their company provides fair and equal treatment under the law. Notify and train HR professionals and supervisors on all changes.