View From McDermott: Dollars and Cents, the Cost of Benefit Coverage

By and on October 10, 2013

Many employers have begun the process of evaluating their options and obligations with respect to extending benefit coverage under employer-sponsored benefit plans to same-sex spouses in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Section 3 of DOMA provided that for all purposes of federal law the word “marriage” meant “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” and the word “spouse” referred “only to a person of the opposite-sex who is a husband or wife.” In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that Section 3 of DOMA was an unconstitutional “deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.”  The effect of this ruling is that federal law now generally will defer to state law definitions of marriage, including same-sex marriage, which has been legalized in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

As part of evaluating options for extending benefit coverage to same-sex spouses, employers need to consider the financial implications of such benefits. These implications include costs the employer will incur in extending such benefits, as well as the financial impact on employees who opt to utilize such benefits. Many of these costs are dependent upon the spousal benefits the employer currently offers, although the relevant considerations and cost estimates outlined below may be helpful resources.

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Brian Tiemann
Brian J. Tiemann counsels public and private companies on a broad range of employee benefit matters, including matters related to pension plans, 401(k) plans and executive and incentive compensation. He advises plan fiduciaries with respect to their fiduciary duties, investment policies and alternative investments. He also advises multinational clients on global employee benefits matters, particularly with respect to global incentive compensation plans. Brian has extensive experience negotiating investment management agreements and service provider agreements. Read Brian Tiemann's full bio.


Todd Solomon
Todd A. Solomon is the head of McDermott’s Benefits, Compensation & Employment Practice Group. Todd focuses his practice on designing, amending and administrating pension, profit sharing, 401(k), employee stock ownership and 403(b) plans, as well as nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements. He also counsels privately and publicly held corporations and tax-exempt entities regarding fiduciary issues under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), employee benefits issues involved in corporate transactions, executive compensation matters and the implementation of benefit programs for domestic partners of employees. Read Todd A. Solomon's full bio.

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