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Labor Dept. Issues First Data on Domestic Partner Benefits

Labor Dept. Issues First Data on Domestic Partner Benefits


This week the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has, for the first time, released data concerning the domestic partner benefits that public and private employers provide.

This information has been collected as part of  the federal government’s National Compensation Survey (NCS) which assesses over 15,000 employers nationwide. It is the first time that domestic partnership data has been collected, and the results, while unsurprising, are significant.

From the Labor Bureau release:

For unmarried domestic partner benefits, about half the workers in state and local government have access to survivor benefits, as compared to 7 percent of the workers in private industry, reflecting in part the difference in the availability of defined benefit plans between these groups. Thirty-three percent of state and local government workers and 29 percent of private sector workers have access to health care benefits for unmarried domestic partners of the same sex. Access to benefits varies by employer and employee characteristics and by whether the unmarried domestic partner is of the same or opposite sex.

This is just a snapshot, with more data to be posted in the fall, but Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, blogging on the bureau’s website, was keen to stress the importance of this data and also the importance of asking employers about these benefits in the first place:

For the first time, in order to better understand the benefits available to an increasingly diverse American workforce, this year’s National Compensation Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes information on domestic partner benefits, providing a better, fuller picture of employee benefits in workplaces across our nation.

The report shows that while 71% of all workers in private industry have access to health care plans, only about 1 in 4 such workers have access to a health care plan they can use to cover their same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partner.

High wage earners and union workers are significantly more likely to have access to benefits for a domestic partner, while only a small percentage of low wage-earners, non-union workers and part-time workers have access to these benefits.

This data obviously highlights a disparity between the range of benefits open to married heterosexual couples and those couples that are relegated to domestic partnerships and points to an even further division between opposite-sex and same-sex couples. That’s not earth-shattering news. What is important is that the first steps in bridging such disparities are made by identifying the problem and attempting to quantify it.

This is something the federal government has now undertaken by collecting data related to domestic partnership benefits. It is hoped that as a clearer picture emerges, short-term solutions to inequalities can be found until Congress can (and is prepared to) remedy them.

You can read the full report here.

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to -Marlith-.

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1:35PM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

And even when a company does allow you to get health insurance for your same sex domestic partner, the tax rules are different than if you are a straight married couple.

So, even though in some places we can cover our partners, we are paying more for it in the long run than if we were a married heterosexual couple. Just one more reason to end DOMA and recognize same sex marriage.

10:46AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

Being part of this group of "non traditional" (whatever that is) relationships, I know first hand what "benefits" I have access too, the IRS doesn't recognize us as a couple, my partner's employer won't see us as a couple until we "tie the knot" legally (which we won't/can't do where we live), people get confused when we explain our relationship because we cannot be defined in any "normal" sense, I could go on but I bet you get the picture....
I would love to see all relationships between consenting adults be recognized by the powers that be, no matter their make up.

6:12AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

Exactly. It's high time we stopped discrimination against families that dont meet the narrow-minded bogoted view of SOME people!!!

Benefits need to be fair, all workers need to be treated fairly and that starts with accepting the family situation whatever it is. If two people commit to each other...that's a family...whatever you care to see, if one person has a child or not...that is a family regardless of how someone else feels about it. Companies cannot and should not discriminate. hurts EVERYONE.....And, if we allow discrimination at this level, where is it gonna stop? Next it will be dark-haired people or green-eyed....bad enough overweight people already face discrimination in a lot of workplaces and in some insurance companies....lets not compound the problem this way...........

5:27AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

It is high time we started treating all families equally under all of our laws. Too many people overlook the fact that doing otherwise is a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways! There are pluses to marriage but there are also minuses, which is why many heterosexual couples prefer not to marry these days. Treating married heterosexual couples, un-married heterosexual couples and GLBT couples regardless of married, un-married or domestic partnership status differently surely damages ALL families!

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