In February of 2010 with our help the Montgomery County Council passed the "Equal Benefits Bill," a county ordinance requiring contractors who do business with the county to offer domestic partner benefits.
All across the country, gay and lesbian employees face discrimination in workplace benefits because they are not unable to obtain a civil marriage license. Receiving equal pay for equal work remains an important aspect to achieving full equality for LGBT Marylanders.
Because same-sex couples are not recognized as family, they are not covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act to take unpaid leave to care for their sick partner.
While the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1995 (COBRA) requires most employers to offer employees the opportunity to pay for continued health coverage on their own in the event that their coverage ends due to divorce or job termination, COBRA does not require an employer to extend those rights to domestic partners.
Many individuals cannot obtain health insurance for their partner through their employer, even though health insurance is in many cases offered to the spouses of employees.
Even when health insurance benefits are offered to domestic partners, the employee taking advantage of these benefits is taxed on the benefits by both the state and federal governments.
Workplace benefits, according to some studies, can comprise as much as 40 percent of overall compensation for employment.
Businesses across the country are realizing now more than ever that equal work deserves equal pay. Domestic partner benefits are an important step toward equal pay for equal work. Studies have shown that domestic partner benefits programs improve employees' productivity and retention rate by alleviating personal stress that may keep workers from fully focusing on work, and by providing an inexpensive enhancement to an overall compensation package.
A 2002 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that domestic partner benefits ranked among the top three recruiting tools that corporate recruiters used to attract talent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that employers with such policies enjoy a heightened reputation for respecting diversity. Without domestic partner benefits, a significant portion of overall employee compensation is unattainable for gay and lesbian workers.
Today, the number of colleges, governments and private corporations that offer domestic partner, or DP, benefits stands at more than 5,800, compared to only slightly more than 100 in 1995, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.
Several Maryland-based Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, including Lockheed Martin, Allegheny Energy, Host Marriott, and Marriott International.
More than 40 other companies in Maryland offer domestic partner benefits including: Sodhexo, Allfirst Financial, Goodwill Industries Intl., Northrup Grumman and Gazette Newspapers.
As of July 1, 2009, domestic partners of Maryland state employees are eligible for domestic partner benefits. Other Maryland jurisdictions that offer domestic partner benefits include Montgomery County, Howard County and the cities of Baltimore, College Park, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Mount Ranier, and Takoma Park. The school systems of Baltimore County and Prince George's County also offer domestic partner benefits.
To learn more about GLBT workplace issues, visit HRC's WorkNet at www.hrc.org/worknet.