Goin’ to the chapel and we’re Gonna get married
—– "The Chapel of Love", by the Dixie Cups
Today (November 12th) is the day that many lesbian and gay couples will indeed be going to the chapel (or town clerk’s offices, or other places); it’s the day that they can get officially married. (For those that somehow missed it, the Connecticut Supreme Court approved of same-sex marriages in a ruling last month.) A Public Defender links to a fairly thorough report on what is likely to occur today here and the New Haven Independent has the details on a variety of weddings that are planned for today after the official court ruling implementing the Supreme Court’s decision.
To be entirely accurate, it’s the first day that town clerks will have the forms and be able to process applications for marriage licenses. (You can find a list of all town clerks here.) After the license is issued, the couples have 60 days to actually get married. But some couples are expected to get married immediately after the licenses are issued.
Why is this important for Connecticut employers? Because as of tomorrow, there are obviously going to be a few employees who will now be newly married. As such, the employee is entitled to have all the rules applicable to married couples apply to them.
This means that under Connecticut FMLA rules, employees will be entitled to take time off to care for a same-sex spouse’s serious health condition or enroll in some types of medical/dental plans.
What should employers do now? Go through your policy and procedure manual and your benefit plans and gain an immediate understanding as to what will apply, what may apply, and what will not apply. If it’s easier to visualize, use a green, yellow and red-light list to separate the issues and figure out which ones needs to be followed up on.
For example, one issue that remains confusing will be the application to federal income tax withholding because federal tax laws differ from Connecticut laws.
After sorting through the issues, figure out which ones need to be followed up on and make a decision on how the company will treat situation. Without a clear understanding of the issues up front, employers will be open to making decisions on the fly — and more often than not, mistakes tend to occur when employers make hasty decisions.
Get things right the first time by ensuring that your policies regarding marriage are sexual-orientation-neutral. And by all means, if you give your married employees a bouquet of flowers for the happy occasion, do the same for any same-sex couples.