The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges has been made, establishing same-sex marriage recognition. As sensitive and complicated as this issue may be, it has big implications for employers.
Every employer in this country must now offer the same benefits to same-sex married couples as they do to opposite-sex married couples (one exception may be in self-insured health plans; it’s still unclear how the ruling will apply to these plans). If available to other employees, employers must offer full spousal benefits. This includes spousal and family dependent health care coverage, pension survivor annuity, survivor death benefits, etc.
This significantly streamlines the benefits administration process for employers. Even where federal and state law doesn’t spell out protections for same-sex spouses, such as self-insured plans, employers will run the risk of violating anti-discrimination laws if they offer a different benefit to same-sex couples than what is offered to heterosexual couples. As a rule of thumb, employers need to treat everyone the same.