Gay Marriage Ruling and Its Impact on Employees

PHOTO CREDIT: Ted Eytan

PHOTO CREDIT: Ted Eytan

The San Antonio Express News have coverage of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling and the impact it may have on the workplace. The good news is that employees in many larger employers will see no impact at all because their employers were already allowing for homosexual spouses in their benefit and leave plans. For others, new benefits and leave rights may be available now that every employer must consider them to be a spouse for all purposes.

Here is a clip from the story:

Texas employers not only will have to recognize their workers’ same-sex unions as a result of Friday’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage, they will have to provide those employees the same benefits that are extended to their heterosexual married workers, local lawyers say.
The state banned gay marriage in 2005 as an amendment to the Texas Constitution, so there were no requirements for companies to extend spousal benefits to gay employees. That will change now, though.
“It used to be three years ago you would grant same-sex benefits either because you felt like you had to or because you wanted to be politically correct,” said Bob Kilgore, an attorney in the San Antonio office of employment law firm Fisher & Phillips. “Now you have to do it because the law is going to require it.”
To be sure, many major local employers — including NuStar Energy LP, Rackspace Hosting Inc., Tesoro Corp., USAA and Valero Energy Corp. — already provide same-sex spousal benefits to both married and unmarried workers. Others, such as SWBC, have extended benefits to legally married same-sex partners.
About 66 percent of Fortune 500 companies extend health benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, according to CNNMoney.
So plenty of companies will have to make policy changes.
The Supreme Court’s ruling “is going to be far-reaching for employers,” said Cyndi Mergele, senior manager of human-resources consulting at Padgett Stratemann & Co. LLP, a San Antonio-based accounting and business advisory firm.
Mergele suspects some gay employees who have not disclosed they are married, perhaps because of concerns about job security, now will approach their employer.
“It’s safe to assume that for most employers, they’re going to have an immediate impact on their group health benefit plans,” Mergele said. “There may not be an impact until next enrollment session. But obviously, employees in a same-sex legal marriage will now be able to participate in group benefits that are offered to spouses.”
Chris McKinney, a San Antonio employment lawyer, said the Supreme Court ruling likely will simplify what has been a complicated issue for employers.
“Under this decision, gay couples are treated no better — but no worse, importantly — than heterosexual couples,” McKinney said. “They’ll have all the same rights and duties, but they’ll have to go get married.”

You can read the entire story here.

You can read the Supreme Court's Opinion here.