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Benefits Of Offering Domestic Partner Benefits

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Benefits of Offering Domestic Partner Coverage

In order for companies to be competitive and diversified in the marketplace today, many are offering domestic partner benefits. Companies need to embrace the new world of opportunities in the workplace and marketplace, and be determined to be the best. Some jurisdictions have instituted domestic partnerships as a way to recognize same-sex unions, domestic partnerships may involve either different-sex or same-sex couples. Recent controversy has surrounded same sex domestic partner benefits since same sex marriages are not recognized by the government. Companies that recognizes a critical component of success is the ability to value and leverage diversity-that is, the power of the people.

Domestic Partners have been defined as legal or personal relationship between individuals who live together and share a common domestic life but are not joined in a traditional marriage, a common-law marriage, or a civil union. The phrases domestic partner was first used to describe living arrangements in 1985 according to The American Heritage Book of English Usage.

The values range from being recognized as a culturally diverse company to attracting talent that would likely go to another company for the benefits. The problem has been health, dental, vision, pharmacy, long-term care, personal accident insurance and life insurance benefits are being offered to employees and their dependents, but not to domestic partners. With the increasing cost of medical attention, it is near impossible to live with out insurance coverage. Some companies are only recognizing legally married couples as qualified family members, which in turns leaves out unmarried opposite and same sex couples. One key question has been how does one prove that he or she is a domestic partner? This is left up to the individual company, corporation and agency. The common practice is to sign an affidavit stating that the person is an adult person living with, but not married to, another adult person in a committed, intimate relationship. Domestic partner benefits have been an issue for employees since more same sex relationships are now in the public forefront. Same sex couples went to employers wanting the domestic partner for opposite sex benefits offered to them.

In 1982, the Village Voice, a New York City weekly, became the first employer to offer domestic partner benefits to its lesbian and gay employees. By 1990, there were fewer than two dozen U.S. employers that offered "spousal equivalent" benefits to their gay employees' partners (Human 2006). In 1992, the Lotus Notes Development Corporation was the first publicly traded company to offer domestic partner benefits (Prudential) and in 1992 Levi Strauss based in San Francisco was the first Fortune 500 company to extend health benefits to unmarried domestic partners (Armour). Prudential began offering domestic partner benefits in 2000 to help stay competitive with other financial services companies and attract a diverse group of workers (Prudential). Today there are 9,390 employer's that offer domestic partner benefits of that 261 are Fortune 500 companies, 8,609 are private companies and corporations, 13 are state governments, 137 are city and county governments and 299 college and universities (Human 2006).

Under federal law, most companies prohibit employment discrimination based on non-job-related factors such as race, sex, religion and marital status. No federal law offers similar protections to employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity either real or perceived.

Some government politicians are getting involved. Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat-Connecticut and Senator Gordon Smith, Republican-Oregon, sought co-sponsors for legislation they plan to introduce extending domestic partner benefits to federal employees. In a recent letter to their colleagues, the two Senators noted that a majority of Fortune 500 companies provide the same benefit programs to domestic partners of employees as they do to spouses of employees (Sens. Lieberman 2006). Ohio Governor Bob Taft signed the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Acts) legislation which noted that the bill allows universities to provide domestic partner benefits, and the state law gives university board trustees the discretion to decide to whom they will offer benefits (Miami 2006).

Another reason sometimes cited for not offering domestic partner benefits is the fear that employees will misrepresent their relationship to obtain benefits for individuals who are not their domestic partners. Many employers require the employee to sign a legally binding statement attesting to the existence of the partnership. That affidavit can be used to exact repayment from any employee who fraudulently receives domestic partner benefits. Companies have different ways to prove that they are in a committed domestic partner relationship. Listed are three different organizations that require proof of having a domestic partner with affidavits.

* Indiana University approved same-sex domestic partner benefits on September 12, 2001 for the employees and students. To enroll, a notarized affidavit must be submitted and state that the domestic partner is the same sex as the employee, competent and at least 18 years of age, not legally married or a domestic partner to another individual, and not related to the employee by blood. Also, he or she have allowed six months to pass since the termination of any other same sex domestic partner relationship, live together for at least six months and provide documentation of a joint ownership of a home or a lease, vehicle, banking account, and credit cards (Indiana 2006).

* Miami University (Ohio) began covering same-sex domestic partners July 1, 2004. To enroll in the benefit plan a signed affidavit certifying that the employee is in a long-term committed relationship and intend to do so indefinitely, and a residence is shared along with financial responsibility. The benefits are limited to same sex partner. Currently, less than 1% of the Miami University staff utilize the domestic partner benefits. (Miami 2006).

* Northrop Grumman offers domestic partner benefits only on the health plan. Four requirement that have to be met to qualify as a domestic partner are; life partner must live at the same permanent residence in an exclusive, emotionally committed, and financially responsible relationship, must be at least 18 years of age and not be a blood relative, not married to anyone else and not a domestic partner to anyone else and, sole domestic partner and intends to remain so indefinitely (Northrop 2006).

These companies had much controversy surrounding domestic partner benefits. Private organizations are not regulated by any government or state agency and can administer



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