Providing Benefits for Domestic Partners
Common HR Questions
Question: Are employers in PA required to provide benefits for domestic partners?
Answer: Last year’s court decision overturning Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage has led to a lot of Hotline calls asking if Members are required to provide the same benefits to employees’ “domestic partners” as they do to employees’ “spouses.”
Here’s the rule: you must provide the same benefits to legally married spouses, whether or not they are of the same sex; but you do not have to provide those benefits to domestic partners (that is, same sex couples that are not legally married). Whether or not the couple is legally married is the key.
Here’s the exception: your benefit plans may require that you provide coverage to domestic partners, and not just legally married spouses. Probably not, but you should check. Note also that you can require those claiming domestic partner status to register their domestic partnership at a state or local domestic partnership registry, which will require that they provide affidavits attesting to their status as domestic partners and that they file domestic partnership recognition papers.
*Provided by Michael Kulakowski, attorney at Powell Trachtman
MEA’s goal is to provide current, detailed and useful information to expert hotline callers, but our responses do not constitute legal advice about what you should or should not do in a particular situation. You should always consult legal counsel, in the context of a confidential attorney-client relationship, before taking any action that could have legal implications for you or your business. If legal services are needed, MEA members are entitled to a discounted fee arrangement with the Powell Trachtman law firm, which serves as MEA’s general counsel. For more information, contact Michael G. Trachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org.