Any time there is a major change to a state or federal law that expands or restricts rights awarded to any group of people, you need to take a few minutes and review your company policies.
On June 26, 2015, one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in a while went into effect when the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide. Regardless of your personal beliefs, it’s important to make sure that you, as an employer, know how the marriage equality act affects your employment policies and benefits so you can continue operating legally.
You have to look at the benefits and policies that you currently provide to spouses in opposite-sex marriages. All of those benefits and policies should be extended to cover same-sex spouses.
For example, your policies listed in your employee handbook concerning The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are the most obvious area that will see an impact.
FMLA requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of leave per year for employees that are dealing with a serious health condition for themselves or a close family member (including a spouse). It also allows employees to take leave for a spouse’s covered military service or military caregiver leave.
With the new ruling, this means that employersmustprovide FMLA rights to employees in same-sex marriages no matter what state they were legally married in or where they currently reside.
Another area that will be impacted is COBRA. COBRA allows spouses of former employees to continue buying health insurance through your provided insurance plan – and that coverage is now extended to cover same-sex spouses.
You need to take the time to review your employee handbook and ensure that your definition of “spouse” doesn’t exclude same-sex couples.
You also need to review your health plans and make sure they are aligned with the new laws.
Finally, you need to make sure your accounting department is prepared to make changes to employee tax withholding and filing statuses.
Taking these steps ensures that your company is operating legally when the laws that affect your employees change.