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After Obergefell, employers must ask: What to do about domestic-partner benefits?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Domestic-partner benefits sprouted up in the 1990s because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in most states. But following the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision last month, there are no more legal barriers to same-sex marriages nationwide.

Now employers need to ask a basic question, the answer to which could upset some employees: Do we still need to offer need domestic-partner benefits?

The problem is as old as domestic-partner benefits themselves: They can be perceived as unfair to unmarried opposite-sex couples who want partner benefits. With spousal benefits now available to all, does it make sense to continue offering domestic-partner benefits to anyone?

Advice: If you do decide to drop your domestic-partner benefits, offer employees a grace period (say six months to a year) during which employees can get married or have their partner dropped from the benefit rolls. Be sure to weigh the employee-relations implications before deciding what to do.

Note: Before taking action, consult your attorney and check state law on domestic-partner benefits.

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