Benefits for Domestic Partnerships
By: Shawn Farr, Human Resource Generalist
January 4, 2012
Extending benefits to include domestic partners of spouses is a growing trend in the American workforce. While Texas does not force companies to recognize or offer benefits for domestic partners, many companies have found that without domestic partnership benefits, they face a disadvantage when competing for top talent. Companies offering domestic partnership may also be attempting to create an image of equality and acceptance in a company's work environment. Good human resources practice is to structure domestic partnership as closely to spousal benefits as possible to avoid charges of discrimination and the potential legal complications that may arise.
Because of the rising cost of healthcare; including domestic partners in employer-based group health insurance plans is what employees in domestic partnerships usually seek most. Employers electing to offer health insurance benefits usually treat domestic partners the same as spouses. They should offer the same employee contributions, deductibles, plan options and employer contributions as in health insurance options for spouses. Many employers and insurers require proof of domestic partnership in counties, which register domestic partners. However, in Texas where recognition of domestic partnership is not statewide, many employers create and require completion of affidavits by the employee.
Another aspect of offering benefits to domestic partnerships is offering them to same sex couples. For many employees, benefits can amount to more than 25 percent of their total compensation. So when employers extend benefits to employees with opposite-sex spouses, many believe that the same benefits should go to employees with a same-sex partner.
An important piece of United States legislation is the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act or the DPBO Act. This would allow LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) federal employees to give their unrecognized same-sex spouses and partner health insurance, life insurance, government pensions, and other employment related benefits and obligations that married heterosexual federal employees enjoy by being married and heterosexual. If the federal government passes this legislation it will join thousands of private employees and many States that currently offer benefits.