Labor And Employment Law 2013: A Year-End Review

I. New Laws and Regulations -

A. Federal -

Following U.S. Supreme Court Decision, Federal Agencies Extend Definition of “Spouse” to Persons in Same-Sex Marriages. In United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court held unconstitutional a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) that for purposes of all federal laws defined “marriage” to include only marriages between a man and a woman. In striking down the law, the Court recognized the right of each state to define marriage and the long-standing deference under federal law given to such state recognition. As a result of Windsor, it became clear that in those jurisdictions where same-sex marriages are recognized (including, among others, California, New York, and the District of Columbia), all federal rights, benefits, and privileges granted to spouses are extended to employees in same-sex marriages. Thereafter, the U.S. Department of Labor (Technical Release 2013-04), the Internal Revenue Service (Revenue Ruling 2013-17), and the Department of Homeland Security ( announced that, for purposes of interpreting federal employee benefit, tax, and immigration laws, same-sex couples who are lawfully married in any state (the so-called “place of celebration”) shall be treated as married, regardless of their place of residence. Thus, even if a same-sex married couple resides in a state where they may not legally marry, they will be recognized as married under these federal laws. This impacts a number of important employment rights that are now extended to same-sex spouses, including:

• Enrollment in Health Plans – Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, marriage is a “qualifying event” that allows an employee to enroll a new spouse immediately in a company sponsored health insurance plan.

• Tax Treatment of Spousal Health Insurance and Expenses – The Internal Revenue Service must now extend tax-free treatment to company-paid premiums for health insurance for an employee’s same sex spouse and pre-tax status to an employee’s payments for spousal health costs via vehicles such as flexible spending accounts....

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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