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Domestic Partnership News Archive
April 14 - April 20, 2001




This page contains news for the period April 14, 2001 through April 20, 2001.





<<   April 2001  >>

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Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Human resource survey shows more companies offering domestic partner benefits

A story released over PR Newswire reports that according to the Society for Human Resource Management's newly- released SHRM(R) 2001 Benefits Survey, certain types of employer-provided benefits has experienced a growth over the past five years, reflecting the changing needs of workers. The annual survey of 754 HR professionals included 160 of the top benefits offered by employers and tracked trends in benefits since 1997.

The survey showed that more employers are giving employees the option of domestic partner benefits, although many of these companies limit them to same-sex couples.

"Reflective of our aging and increasingly busy society, employers are offering more flexible benefits and benefits geared toward aging workers," said SHRM President and CEO, Helen Drinan, SPHR. "The fact that this survey has doubled in size since it was first conducted is indicative of how complex and important employee benefits are today."

Among Benefits That Rose Over a 5-Year Period:
     *  Paid Time Off Plans
     *  Domestic Partner Benefits
     *  Flexible Scheduling
     *  Flexible Spending Accounts
     *  Retirement and Financial Planning

A reflective understanding of shifting demographics and the growth of non-traditional families has forced more employers to offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. A total of 6 percent of HR professionals reported their organization offered domestic partner benefits in 1997. Today, 25 percent report offering benefits for same sex partners and 16 percent offer benefits for opposite sex partners.

Proposed reciprocal beneficiary bill dies in Nevada committee

A story published today by the Las Vegas Review Journal reports that a proposed Nevada bill giving unmarried gay or straight couples legal standing was one of the bills that died late Monday as legislators worked to beat a self-imposed midnight deadline.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, had sought Assembly Bill 496 to set up a "beneficial reciprocal relationship" for unmarried couples of either sex. Under the bill, couples who filed notarized statements for such relationships could make hospital, estate and funeral decisions for each other in the event one of them becomes incapacitated. Parks estimated that there are four times as many unmarried heterosexual couples as there are gay couples that would benefit from this bill.

But critics charged the relationship was too much like that of a spouse. They pointed out that 70 percent of Nevada voters approved in November a ballot question that defines a marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.

Last week the committee's vice chairman, Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, indicated that some parts of the bill could be tacked on to other health care bills already being considered by the Assembly if the bill doesn't make it out of committee.

"I don't know if there is a whole lot of support for this bill on the committee at this time," said Manendo.

A crowd of people packed a conference room at the Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas for the teleconferenced hearing, with 324 people showing up to oppose the proposal, while 26 were there to support it, said a legislative staff person.

Members of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a group that opposed an initiative to ban gay marriage, which passed with 70 percent of the vote last fall, were encouraged to write letters rather than attend the meeting, Liz Moore, Southern Nevada coordinator for the alliance, said.

"We put most of our emphasis on getting people to submit written comment on the bill ... because we were aware of the time limits," Moore said.

Concerned about voter backlash, the Assembly Judiciary Committee let Parks' bill die without a vote.

Saturday, April 14, 2001

Domestic partner benefits in companies spreading

A story released today by Rueters reports that a number of companies are now offering domestic partner health care benefits to their employees.

In just the first quarter of this year, more than 20 Fortune 500 companies have either adopted such policies or announced they plan to do so by July 1. This brings to 121 the total number of Fortune 500 businesses that have actively taken, or plan to take, this step, say activists who monitor this trend.

Businesses that do so elect to cover their gay and unmarried workers' domestic partners for medical and life insurance benefits.

The reason for the benefits' acceleration, said Denise Chachere, a professor of management at St. Louis University, Mo., is that employers want to keep ``their talented people and will do whatever it takes, including (offering) domestic partner health care.''

As the overwhelming majority of employees are straight, Chachere said, more unmarried heterosexual couples than gay couples are profiting from these offers.

``We use a variety of communications tools, including e-mail,'' to inform 26,000 employees worldwide about our policies, said Ron Gruendl, spokesperson for Mellon Financial Corp., of Pittsburgh, a Fortune 500 corporation that adopted domestic partner health insurance coverage last January 1st.

``The decision was driven by considerations to prompt recruiting, rewarding, and retaining the best employees in today's job market,'' Gruendl said. Coverage details are published ''in a benefits-related newsletter that goes to all employees,'' he added.

In Schaumburg, Ill., a Motorola Inc. spokesperson said the company last year began offering health care coverage to employees with same sex partners in recognition of the fact that ''they cannot get married in most States.''

A recent survey of 570 large employers by management firm Hewitt Associates, of Lincolnshire, Ill., also confirms the spread of domestic partner benefits. Between 1997 and 2000 companies surveyed that offer them doubled, from 10 to 22 percent.

What's more, 35 percent of the firms surveyed that did not offer the benefit said they expect to consider offering it during the next three years, Hewitt reported.

``It's a domino effect,'' said Kim Mills, education director of the gay advocacy Human Rights Campaign, in Washington, D.C., because ``when you see one company in a market sector doing this, the competitors who have been waiting to go second jump in.''

Mills estimated that more than 3,600 businesses now offer domestic partner benefits.

According to the Hewitt survey, opening their health insurance plans to the companions of gay and unmarried workers apparently costs employers little. Hewitt found that 85 percent of the employers that did so raised their total benefit costs by less than 1 percent. Just 1 percent of all unmarried employees even requested them.

``Many domestic partners are already covered through their own work places, and some employees still don't feel safe enough to 'come out' as gay and enroll their partners,'' Mills explained. Other workers ``are discouraged by the tax hit because the IRS counts domestic partner benefits as taxable income to the employee,'' she added.

Of firms adopting domestic partner benefits, Hewitt said, 76 percent did so to attract and retain employees; 30 percent did so to comply with a nondiscrimination policy; and 17 percent did so to comply with local government regulations.

``With the dramatic growth of domestic partner programs across a wide variety of industries, employers are discovering that the benefits, such as employee loyalty and engagement, far outweigh the costs,'' asserted Jennifer Boehm, a Hewitt consultant.



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