Same Sex marriage affect your workplace?
In all likelihood, the answer is yes.
Whether you are a business owner or an employee, the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in the
nationally debated Goodridge
case that granted same sex couples the right to marry
probably has affected your workplace.
This article provides a rudimentary overview of some
employment law issues relative to the Goodridge
Handbooks – For employers, it would be prudent to
review all employee handbooks, benefit plans and policies.
It is important to know who the company is providing
benefits for and who is eligible for the benefits.
In addition to understanding what a company is
legally obligated to provide, it also makes sense to
consider what it should provide, regardless of any legal
other words, it may be prudent to provide equal benefits to
all employees because it is good for morale and it may help
the company avoid costly legal challenges.
Leave – Women are allowed 8 weeks of leave for the
birth or adoption of a child.
The relevant authorities are Mass. Gen. Laws,
Chapters 149, § 105D and 151B, § 1 et. al., which only
applies to companies that have more than 5 employees.
Whether the woman is heterosexual or homosexual is
a woman in a same sex marriage who is giving birth (or
adopting a child) has the same rights to maternity leave as
a women in an opposite sex marriage.
Plans and Federal Tax Benefits – The Defense of
Marriage Act that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996
defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Because this is federal legislation, any employee
benefit plan that is subject to ERISA or any federal tax
benefit or program, i.e., the Family Medical Leave Act, are
not required to be offered to spouses in a same sex
are certain programs and laws that would not be affected
because they are not linked to federal law, i.e., government
or church plans, non-qualified deferred compensation plans,
fully insured welfare benefit plans, etc.
There is an exception to the rule - a same sex spouse
can be entitled to federal benfits if the spouse is defined
as a dependent of the other spouse, which means that the
same sex spouse is entitled to any benefits that accrue
under federal and state law for dependents.
– The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act would prevent same sex
spouses from coverage of this federal piece of legislation;
however, the mini-COBRA, which is the Massachusetts statute
that applies to employers with 2-19 employees would cover
same sex spouses.
Benefits – These benefits, (i.e., bereavement leave,
housing benefits, relocation benefits, employee discount
plans) cannot be withheld from same sex spouses in