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Employment Benefits for Domestic Partners

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What is a Domestic Partner?

What defines a domestic partnership varies from state to state, and also varies in different workplaces and under different benefit plans.  In states that recognize domestic partnerships, two people can register if they meet certain criteria.

Can an Employee's Health Benefits Cover Their Domestic Partner?

Many company insurance policies offer coverage for domestic partners.  This is becoming increasingly common.  However, private employers are not required by law to offer coverage to domestic partners.  Nearly all companies that offer benefits for domestic partners require the employee to prove the existence of a domestic partner relationship, something married employees are usually not required to do.  This can be accomplished by producing rental agreements or bills. 

What are the Requirements for a Domestic Partner to Receive Employment Benefits?

In order to be eligible for domestic partner employment benefits, the employee needs to demonstrate that their partner meets certain criteria.  These requirements may vary by state and according to each individual employer.  Most employees require the domestic partner to be:

  • Involved in a “committed relationship” with the employee partner
  • Involved in an “exclusive” relationship with their employee partner
  • Financially interdependent with the partner
  • At least the age of majority (usually 18 in most states)

Some employment benefit plans for domestic partners may also include same-sex relationships, though not all states recognize such arrangements.  Also, some employers enforce a waiting period of 6 months to 1 year before the domestic partner becomes eligible for the benefits plan.

What other Types of Benefits are Covered?

Most domestic partner employment benefit plans offer only basic, minimal benefits.  Some of these may include:

  • Expenses due to company-required relocation
  • Access to company equipment and property
  • Permission to be present at company functions
  • Additional sick leave if the partner becomes ill

While it is not common, some employers may also extend health care coverage to registered domestic partners.  This is because the overall number of employees participating in domestic partner benefit plans tends to be low. 

What Are the Tax Consequences of Domestic Partner Benefits?

The IRS treats domestic partner benefits as taxable income, despite the fact that spousal benefits are tax free.

Should I Speak to a Lawyer?

If you have a question about obtaining benefits for your domestic partner, or feel that you were unfairly denied benefits for your domestic partner, you should speak with an employment lawyer.  A lawyer can help you to understand your rights and determine whether you have a case against your employer.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-14-2011 01:32 PM PDT

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