You’ll feel the impact of the Supreme Court’s historic rulings on gay marriage fast, no matter what state you’re located in.
The high court’s 5-4 decision to strike down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 had the whole nation talking last week.
Yes, that will have an immediate impact on employers in the 12 states (and now California) that allow same-sex marriages: MA, CT, IA, VT, NH, NY, RI, DE, MN, ME, MD, WA and DC.
But there are implications for employers in every state as well.
We’ll start with the most pressing changes for the states immediately required to ensure same-sex spouses are treated equally throughout all your programs and policies.
Your to-do list in 13 states
Here’s a checklist of some of the key areas you’ll have review STAT to keep your company in compliance:
- Payroll contributions: Your staffers can no longer take out taxes on any paycheck contributions employees make for medical, dental and vision coverage for a same-sex spouse.
- Healthcare plans: Make sure eligibility and all benefits apply equally to both same sex spouses and heterosexual ones.
- Retirement plans: Same goes for your 401(k) and other retirement plans.
- Flex spending accounts (FSAs): Employees can now store pre-tax dollars for same-sex spouses.
- Health savings accounts (HSAs): The same policies apply to this rising-popularity strategy for healthcare cost control.
- COBRA: Your company will need to extend COBRA coverage to same-sex spouses.
- FMLA: Employees can now take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a same-sex spouse.
No word yet on whether any of these requirements will be retroactive (prompting things like tax refunds). We’ll keep you posted.
For everyone else
Experts urge it’s not just employers in these states that need to start addressing these issues.
There are several other questions for companies raised by these rulings.
For example, what if you’re not located in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, but an employee has a same-sex spouse living in another state that does? Do you have to extend those rights? No one has addressed that issue yet.
And things will certainly be tricky for multistate employers.
The final unknown: Will other states follow the lead of the states that have already legalized gay marriage? Hot on the heels of the Supreme Court’s rulings, some states have already introduced new bills to make same-sex marriage legal. So we could see a wave of new states impacted.
Considering that there are more than 1,000 federal provisions that impact spouses, the effects will be far-reaching. So even if gay marriage isn’t legal in your state yet, it’s time to start looking at all the different areas you’d need to change and anticipate the costs.