Why cover domestic partners?
Since the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which brought marriage equality nationwide by ruling that marriage is a fundamental right to which same-sex couples should have the same access as opposite-sex couples, employers have sought to do the right thing in the name of equality and provide spousal benefits to both same- and different-sex married couples. Many employers assumed that the marriage ruling obviated the need for partner benefits; however, this is not true. While marriage equality is undoubtedly a monumental step toward full equality, LGBTQ+ individuals remain at risk for discrimination in many other aspects of daily life and these vulnerabilities continue to create barriers for many LGBTQ+ Americans to exercise their legal right to marry.
In the absence of sexual orientation and gender identity protections through federal and consistent state law, LGBTQ+ individuals remain vulnerable to discrimination in housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education, jury service, and, in some cases, employment (for employees not covered under Title VII). While LGBTQ+ Americans can get legally married, this lack of guaranteed protection in other domains means a newly married LGBTQ+ couple are at risk for eviction from their home by a discriminatory landlord that sees their wedding photos on social media. Until LGBTQ+ Americans have full equality through the federal Equality Act, domestic partner benefits will remain an essential CEI standard that helps to fill the void left by federal and state law and ensure LGBTQ+ workers and their families receive equitable benefits whether married or partnered.
Domestic partner benefits do not only serve same-sex couples. In fact, over the last decade most businesses that have offered same-sex partner benefits also extended these to partners. In other words, businesses have increasingly recognized the value of decoupling benefits from the legal definition of marriage to meet the needs of their diverse workforces.
Competitive employer-provided benefits’ packages are critical to attracting and retaining talent. From healthcare coverage to retirement investments and more, ensuring LGBTQ+ inclusive benefits to employees and their families is an overall low-cost, high-return proposition for businesses. In addition, equitable benefits structures align with the principle of equal compensation for equal work. Apart from actual wages paid, benefits account, on average, for approximately 30 percent of employees’ overall compensation. Therefore, employers should ensure that this valuable bundle of benefits is equitably extended to their workforce, irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity. When denied equal benefits coverage, the cost to LGBTQ+ workers and their families is profound.
To receive credit in Criteria 2a, b, and c (20 points) a company must have the following:
- Equivalency in same- and different-sex spousal medical and soft benefits (0 points)
- Equivalency in same- and different-sex domestic partner medical and soft benefits (10 points)
- Equivalency in spousal and domestic partner family formation benefits regardless of sex (10 points)
See below for an overview of the scored questions. For even more in depth help on this section, click here.