A new report titled "The Do's And Don'ts of DOMA" has been issued by the National School Boards Association in partnership with the National Education Association and the American Association of School Administrators spelling out how the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA in United States v. Windsor applies to school districts across the country, The Washington Post reports. A few notable excerpts on the impact the decision has on benefits for same-sex couples and what actions school districts need to take to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling can be found below:
Every policy and benefit that defines or refers to marriage or spouses in the application of a federal benefit is affected. The reference to marriage may be by use of the term “husband,” “wife,” or “spouse.” Major areas could include health benefits, FMLA policies, leaves of absence under policies and collective bargaining agreements, retirement benefits, beneficiary designations, health care spending accounts, dependent care accounts, COBRA policies, nepotism rules, and ethics policies. [...]
Must school district benefit plans cover same-sex marriages?
Yes, school districts must provide federally derived benefits to same-sex spouses, if the marriage is recognized by the applicable state. [...]
What terminology should be used in referring to marriage in school district policies and plans?
It is advisable to refer simply to “marriage” and “spouse,” and let the prevailing state law determine its application. This will keep the school district’s documents current, even if a state’s law changes over time.
There are several actions school systems should take:
1. Issue amended W-2 statements reversing any income imputed to an employee because their same-sex spouse received medical or other benefits.
2. Investigate obtaining an employer refund for FICA taxes.
3. Review and revise all policies, benefit plans, summaries, and forms, etc., that apply to or affect married employees as needed.
4. Consider the need for sponsoring a limited enrollment window for benefits.
5. Notify employees of this ruling and their possible eligibility for benefits, including retroactive application.
6. Review all collective bargaining agreements and confer with association representatives to see if changes are needed.
7. Consider revising your FMLA policy to provide benefits regardless of the employee’s residence, for ease of administration.
8. Review the civil rights laws in your state and local jurisdiction for anti-discrimination or benefit provisions that apply to these issues.
9. Monitor updates to federal regulations, especially from the U.S. Department of Labor of the definition of “spouse” under the FMLA.
10. Monitor legislation and court rulings in your jurisdiction that may establish marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity as protected classes for civil rights purposes.