Equivalent Benefits CEI Resources


Please attach a copy of your summary plan documentation's eligibility and definitions section(s) that define who is eligible for benefits.

  • Finding the right answer: Check with an insurance administrator familiar with your benefit contract language and eligibility limitations. You may need to first speak to someone in your benefits department to find this individual.

Does your insurance plan require proof of relationship documentation to enroll an eligible dependent?

  • Example 1: If both same-sex spouses and different-sex spouses are required to produce a marriage certificate for enrollment purposes, select "Yes".
  • Example 2: If neither same-sex spouses nor different-sex spouses are required to produce a marriage certificate for enrollment purposes, select "Yes".
  • Example 3: If same-sex spouses but not different-sex spouses are required to produce a marriage certificate for enrollment purposes, select "No".
  • Example 4: If your require domestic partners to submit an affidavit, select "Yes".

Can employees enroll in partner benefits outside of the open enrollment period (e.g., completing or executing an affidavit or obtaining state registration of the relationship constitutes a qualifying event for enrollment)? 

  • Open Enrollment: Employees are typically allowed to change their enrollment for themselves and their families for a period (typically 15-31 days in length) before the new plan year begins.
  • Qualifying Events for Enrollment: Employees with newly-eligible dependents (e.g., a newborn or newly-adopted child, a partner that newly meets the eligibility requirements such as completing or executing an affidavit for domestic partnership, obtaining state registration or license of the relationship, etc.) or other special events (e.g., the employee's partner's employer coverage ends, or the employee's previous employer's COBRA coverage ends, etc.) are typically allowed to change their enrollment for themselves and their families for a period (typically 31 days in length) beginning the date the dependent becomes eligible or the date on which the special event occurs.
  • Finding the right answer: If employees whose partners newly meet your plan's partner eligibility criteria can enroll outside the open enrollment period, select "Yes." If they can only enroll during open enrollment, select "No."

Domestic Partner Benefit Eligibility -- Defining Domestic Partners and Dependents


Does your business allow employees to certify that their partner qualifies as a dependent for federal income and employer payroll tax purposes in a given a tax year (e.g., income tax is not imputed for the value of partner benefits when the employee's partner qualifies as a qualified dependent under I.R.S. guidelines)? 

  • Problem area: Many employers incorrectly impute their contributions towards partner health insurance as income to all employees enrolled in partner benefits. Both employers and employees generally must pay taxes on imputed income for partner health insurance. However, partners that are qualifying dependents do not require imputed income, and any health coverage premiums paid by the employee may be deducted on a pre-tax basis.
  • Finding the Right Answer: Your payroll manager would know if this is the case. Ask if a form is available for employees to certify that their partner qualifies as a dependent. Ideally, this form would also be referenced in the enrollment information for partner benefits.

See Determining and Tracking Dependent Status for more information, including legal references for your counsel's review.


Does your business "gross up" wages to offset the additional, imputed income tax for employees who receive health benefits for a partner that does not qualify as a tax dependent? 

  • Problem area: Many employers incorrectly assume that they gross up to offset the additional, imputed income tax. This is an uncommon benefit that has received increased attention in the last few years.
  • More information, including a sample policy: Grossing Up to Offset Imputed Income Tax.

 Select the following soft benefits offered to spouses and/or partners of benefits-eligible U.S. employees firm-wide? 

  • FMLA/FMLA-equivalent benefits
    • FMLA-equivalent leave can be provided to an employee in order to care for a same-sex spouse, partner or a spouse/partner's dependents. Because FMLA is required under federal law for different-sex spouses, No, benefit not offered is not an available answer option. See FMLA-equivalent benefit for more information, including benchmarking data.
  • Bereavement leave
    • Leave taken in the event of the death of a spouse/partner or their dependents.
  • Employer-provided supplemental life insurance
    • Offered for the spouse/partner.
  • Relocation/travel assistance
    • Available to spouse/partner.
  • Employee discounts
    • Available to spouse/partner.
  • Employee assistance program
    • Available to spouse/partner.

Please indicate which beneficiaries are eligible to receive survivor benefits offered to benefits-eligible U.S. employees? 

  • QJSA/QJSA-equivalent benefit
    • If your business has a defined benefit plan (these are increasingly less common), federal law requires it to provide a QJSA for different-sex spouses. It is possible to provide a QJSA (or QJSA-like benefit) for same-sex partners and spouses (i.e. plan participants can elect a non-spouse beneficiary for the plan). Pension Survivor Annuities and the CEI
  • QPSA/QPSA-equivalent benefit
    • If your business has a defined benefit plan (these are increasingly less common), federal law requires it to provide a QPSA for different-sex spouses. It is possible to provide a QPSA (or QPSA-like benefit) for same-sex partners and spouses (i.e. plan participants can elect a non-spouse beneficiary for the plan). Pension Survivor Annuities and the CEI
  • Cash balance plan 

Please indicate who is eligible to access retirement savings without a tax penalty?

  • Hardship distribution option The Pension Protection Act of 2006 made it possible for employers to extend this benefit to any beneficiary the employee names on the plan, which can include same-sex partners and spouses. This benefit is optional for employers, but if it is available to different-sex spouses it should also be made available to same-sex partners and spouses. Hardship Withdrawal Option for Retirement Plans

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