Domestic partner benefits are the term used to describe the employee benefits available to the unmarried partner of an employee. The unmarred partner of the employee will be provided with the same or similar benefits as a married spouse of an employee. The number of employers offering such benefits to domestic partners is increasing by the day. In fact in many jurisdictions across the nation, the law requires the employer to provide such benefits if they want to compete for government contracts. The laws on domestic partner benefits vary from one jurisdiction to another. This section discusses domestic partner benefits and other associated legal issues.
A domestic partnership is an association of two unmarried and unrelated adults who live together in the same house. To qualify for domestic partner benefits, the employ must show that his or her domestic partner meets the eligibility criteria. Generally to be eligible, the domestic partner:
• must be unrelated and not within any or the prohibited relationships under the state marriage law
• must be an adult
• must share a committed relationship with the employee
• must be in an exclusive relationship with the employee and
• must be financially interdependent with the employee.
Some employers limit the benefits to same sex partners. Generally the benefits are limited to committed relationships. What is a committed relationship depends on many factors and the definition of a committed relationship varies from one jurisdiction to another. Domestic partners in some states and cities can register their domestic partnership. Although registration does not give the domestic partnership the status of a marriage, some employers or even the law may require it as a condition for domestic partner benefits.
The benefits available to a domestic partner are generally limited. Some of these benefits are:
• Access to employer property
• Relocation Expenses
• Sick Leave
• Attending employer events and functions
The biggest benefit is however medical and health insurance. Employers generally do not provide these benefits to domestic partners unless required to do so by law. Employers generally cite costs as the main reason for not providing these benefits. But studies have concluded that the costs aren’t as high as the employers believe them to be. The enrolment in domestic partnership benefit plans tends to be low and most domestic partners who enroll in the plan are generally young and healthy. In case of same sex partners, the high cost associated with pregnancy and child birth can be avoided.
If the state law recognizes domestic partnerships, then the partners will be eligible for state tax benefits. However there domestic partners do not receive any benefits when it comes to federal taxes. The only exception to this rule is a partner who is classified as a legal dependent under the IRS rules. A legal dependent is one who lives in the same household and receives more than 50% of his or her support from the other partner.
Many employers provide domestic partner benefit plans. To know your eligibility, contact an experienced employee rights attorney nearest to you.