How yesterday’s federal court strike of PA’s same-sex marriage ban affects employers

ICYMI, yesterday, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled in this opinion that PA’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

How fitting that the first gay couple in Philadelphia to obtain a marriage license was Kerry Smith and Rue Landau, who serves as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR). Congratulations, Rue and Kerry!

So, now that, for the time being, gay marriage is legal in the Keystone State, how does this impact local employers? Find out after the jump…

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  • FMLA. The Family and Medical Leave Act permits eligible employees to take leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The FMLA defines family member as “a husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides.” If a Pennsylvania employer employs a Pennsylvania resident, and that resident is eligible to take FMLA for his/her own serious health condition, if that employee seeks FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse with a serious health condition, guess what? You’d better provide that leave.


  • ERISA. As I blogged previously (here), the Employee Benefits Security Administration has released “Guidance to Employee Benefit Plans on the Definition of “Spouse” and “Marriage” under ERISA and the Supreme Court’s Decision in United States v. Windsor,” a copy of which you can find here. EBSA determined that the term “spouse” to refer to any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law.


  • Mini-COBRA. Pennsylvania’s Mini-COBRA applies to employees of smaller businesses (2-19 employees) and their eligible dependents. The law defines “eligible dependent” to include the employee’s spouse. Thus, same-sex spouses should be covered as eligible dependents going forward.
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