California Expands Definition Of Domestic Partners To Include Opposite Sex Couples

Lozano Smith Client News Brief
October 2019
Number 63

In California, registered domestic partners have "the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under the law" as spouses. (Fam. Code § 297.5, subd. (a).) Existing law limits domestic partnerships, among other requirements, to two groups of individuals: (1) couples of the same sex or (2) couples of the opposite sex, one or both of whom are over the age of 62 and eligible for social security benefits. On July 30, 2019, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 30 which eliminates these criteria for registering as domestic partners. As of January 1, 2020, any couple over the age of 18 (or under 18 with a court order), regardless of gender, can enter into a domestic partnership. This expansion has significant legal implications for California employers, including public entity employers.

Policy and Review of Collective Bargaining Agreements

To the extent an employer has policies, negotiated collective bargaining agreements, or employee handbooks that address domestic partnerships, it is important for employers to review such documents to ensure compliance with SB 30.

Health Benefits and Other Considerations

In light of SB 30, employers may have more employees eligible and interested in enrolling their domestic partner in an employer-sponsored healthcare plan. If such plan, whether self-insured or otherwise, offers health benefits to spouses then it must afford the same health benefits to registered domestic partners, under the same terms and conditions. Employers may, but are not required to, offer healthcare benefits to unregistered domestic partners as well. Employers should review the terms and conditions of their insurance policies/healthcare plans to ensure compliance with SB 30.

Because healthcare benefits are generally included as part of an employee's wage for tax purposes, absent an exception, there may be related tax implications that employers should be aware of.

For more information about SB 30 and its implications for employers, or to discuss any other labor or employment questions, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also subscribe to our podcast, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or download our mobile app.
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As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.