In a 5-to-4 decision on Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that states are required to license marriages to same sex couples under the Fourteenth Amendment. Here’s a roundup of advice on what employers need to do following this decision.

Same-Sex Marriage Equality: What Employers Need to Know After Obergefell
National Law Review, Sarah Wisor: “Multi-state employers that have been dealing with state-specific policies that were dependent on state-law recognition of same-sex marriages may now want to implement a uniform policy that applies to all locations.”

Wisor offers a helpful rundown of many of the Human resource policies and benefits that must be addressed, including FMLA, bereavement, and other leaves, marital status discrimination, updating emergency contacts and beneficiaries, benefit updates, and W-4 and tax forms.

Employers need to respond to ruling in same-gender marriage decision
Inside Counsel, Ed Silverstein: “When commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision, Scott Cooper, an attorney with Blank Rome’s Labor and Employment practice group, said, “The top policy review issues for employers following the case will be benefits, leave of absence and childcare related. Any employer that has previously relied upon the ‘traditional definition of marriage’ to exclude some employees will now have to revisit those policies and decisions. This will include access to benefits, when leaves may be taken and how the employer will recognize child care issues.”

What Employers Need To Know About Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling
Wall St. Journal, Rachel Emma Silverman: “Companies that offer spousal health benefits and use a separate insurance company to fund their benefits will now be required to cover both gay and straight spouses. “Based on the court’s ruling today, there is simply one type of spouse,” says Todd Solomon, a law partner in the employee-benefits practice group at McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago, who has been tracking same-sex employee benefits for nearly two decades.”

How Will the Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage Impact Employers?
Huffington Post, Julie Stich: “Employers located in states where same-sex marriage has not been recognized or allowed will need to change employment, HR and benefits policies to comply. For example, employers offering fully insured group health plan coverage to employees will now need to provide coverage for same-sex spouses if coverage is provided to opposite-sex spouses. Access to and eligibility for other benefits, such as employee assistance programs, tuition reimbursement and bereavement and other types of leave, must be the same for all legally married couples. Prior to this decision, employees working in states that did not recognize or allow same-sex marriage had to pay additional state taxes on benefits provided to their spouse. That no will longer apply.”

3 Guard Rails for Workplace Discussions on Marriage Equality
Jonathan Segal of SHRM says that strong feelings engendered by the Supreme Court decsision
will spill into workplaces next week and for the indefinite future. He notes:

“It is not practical nor desirable to prohibit such discussions. Indeed, because of the connection between marriage and some workplace issues, a prohibition may be unlawful in some circumstances.

But we also cannot ignore the potential for deep emotional feelings to result in deep emotional workplace divisions.”

He offers 3 suggested guardrails for workplace discussions, encouraging leaders to stay within them and to respond proactively to subordinates who do not.

Additional resources

Crain’s Detroit Business: Same-sex marriage ruling gives employers, attorneys much to consider in benefits coverage

Dallas Business Journal: Same-sex ruling means employers should make benefits ‘gender irrelevant’

Chicago Tribune: What does marriage equality mean for the workplace?



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