According to Human Rights Campaign Work Net (2006) fringe benefits such as health and life insurance, a pension or profit-sharing has long been a way for employers to compensate their workers, and for one company to obtain a competitive edge over another. While most employers that offer benefits such as health insurance and dental care also make those benefits available to their employees' spouses and legal dependents, the idea of extending such benefits to the domestic partner (DP) of unmarried employees, including lesbian and gay employees, is a newer concept. In the American society today, most people think of domestic partnership when it applies to homosexual relationships. Our team has come to the conclusion that, when presenting this topic to any corporation, it is essential to include as many different definitions of domestic partnership as possible. Domestic partner benefits can include medical and dental insurance, disability and life insurance, pension benefits, family and bereavement leave, education and tuition assistance, credit union membership, relocation and travel expenses and inclusion of partners in company events. Employment policies of corporations should not be designed to change personal values, they are designed to foster and atmosphere of fairness and professional respect at work. Domestic partner benefits are equal pay for equal work, a tool for attracting and keeping the best employees and a means of improving employee productivity.
Domestic Partner Benefits 3
Prior to World War II few companies offered comprehensive benefit programs to their employees. Of the few that did offer benefits, only the employee was covered not their family. Families most often depended on fraternal orders and community assistance to meet their needs. Throughout the decade following WW II, unions fought for and negotiated benefits for employees and their families. As corporations began to design their employee benefit programs they used 1950's sitcom families such as Father knows Best as models for their definition of family. These policies still are geared more toward the idealized family model rather than the diverse makeup of households today. As a result few corporate benefit programs truly meet the needs of many of their employee's families. Laws that traditionally define families as individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption reinforced corporation's cultural message. Over the next couple of decades the makeup of families changed even more. The divorce rate increased considerably and unmarried couples began living together. As couples remarried they found themselves in blended families with dependent
stepchildren. As a result the legal interpretation of the
term "family" has been used to exclude blended families and domestic partners from vital legal protections and benefits. In this way the government has helped to protect corporations from the responsibility of changing and updating their benefit programs to meet the needs of diverse family formations.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was designed to protect families under employer-sponsored benefit packages, but its creation actually undercut that protection by allowing employers to put marriage requirements into their benefit plans. Corporations can now say they follow nondiscriminatory policies, but without national laws requiring legal recognition and protection of non-traditional families, many Domestic Partner Benefits 4
employers can continue to dismiss the demands of the modern family without fear of litigation.
With the growing diverse makeup of families in society, some courts recognize the need for a "functional family" bound by emotional and economic commitments rather than the traditional factors of blood, marriage or adoption. Some of the factors that determine the existence of a functional family are the exclusivity and longevity of the relationships, as well as the level of emotional and financial...
References: Bowman, C. (1996). Brown signs law on partner benefits/ S.F. contractors must offer
coverage. San Francisco Chronicle, pA15
Gillan, Jennifer L.; Ponte, Lucille M. (2005 Summer). From our family to yours:
Rethinking the "beneficial family" and marriage-centric corporate benefit
programs. Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, v14 i2.
Human Rights Campaign (2006). Work Net. Retrieved April 28, 2006, from www.hrc.org
Murphy, D. (2002). Going to school with Fish; happy employees can save companies
more than a few fins. San Francisco Chronicle, pJ1
Tuller, D. (1996). IRS to tax health benefits for domestic partners. San Francisco
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