Will the Demise of DOMA Help or Hurt Your Employees?


The Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, will have a broad range of impacts for states (including Maine and New Hampshire) which recognize same-sex marriage or are multi-state employers. Employers should review company policies to ensure policies reflect changes to eligibility for benefits and leave.

Employees Will Benefit From Access to Benefits and Leave Programs
There are many areas in federal law where protections or responsibilities are determined by marital status. Employees who are married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage will now be eligible for all major employee benefits afforded to opposite-sex married couples without the consequence of disparate tax treatment and for leave to care for same-sex spouses under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Educational institutions should also be aware of potential implications with regard to housing, visa and immigration status and financial aid.

Same Sex Spouses Income Now Included for Financial Aid
Employers that provide tuition assistance or grants for employee spouses or that have students who receive financial aid know that prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the U.S. Department of Education proposed an update to the free application for Federal Student Aid (commonly referred to as the FAFSA).

The repeal of DOMA will require expansion of the income sources that must be disclosed on the FAFSA. Since the FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for aid based on the individual circumstances of each student, possible contributions of parents or a spouse to household income are relevant. Same-sex spouses and applicants with same-sex married parents will now be required to include both incomes on the FAFSA. This may affect eligibility for aid for some students. Employers who offer tuition benefits and educational institutions should be aware of these impacts.

For more information on the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA and its impact on employee benefits, click here.

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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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