Companies that score a big contract with the City of Philadelphia will soon be forced to amend their employee benefit plans to comply with the City’s requirement that the benefits offered to the spouses of employees also must be offered to same-sex life partners of employees.

Mayor Michael Nutter signed the Bill implementing the requirement on December 12, 2011, but it will not take effect until July 1, 2012.

The new law, which amends Title 17 of the Philadelphia Code, changes the eligibility requirements for entering into a service contract with the City worth $250,000 or more. Specifically, it provides that the contractor must offer the same employment benefits extended to spouses of its employees to life partners of employees, if the employee resides in the City of Philadelphia or is a non-resident subject to the Philadelphia wage tax.

The Bill defines employment benefits as “any employee benefit, including, but not limited to, health insurance benefits, including health, vision and dental benefits; bereavement leave; family medial leave; moving expenses; memberships and membership discounts; and travel benefits.”

Verification of a life partnership may be provided in one of three ways—by satisfying the verification standards in Philadelphia Code Section 9-1123, by meeting the Code’s definition of “Life Partnership”, or by an official document evidencing a marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or the equivalent under the laws of any state or country between two people who share the same gender identity.

The penalties for non-compliance, discrimination, or retaliation include liquidated damages as well as suspension or even debarment from bidding on or participating in City contracts for up to three years.

The law exempts contractors able to demonstrate that complying with the law would result in a loss of federal, state, or similar funds or grants; would be prohibited by federal or state law; or would interfere with a collective bargaining agreement. Exemptions also would apply, in certain circumstances, to bona fide religious or charitable organizations, and in situations where waiving the provisions would be in the best interest of the City.

Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment and Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation attorneys regularly advise employers on compliance with City, state, and federal regulations. If you have questions on the new requirement, please contact David S. Fryman at 215.864.8105 or fryman@ballardspahr.com, or the Ballard Spahr employment or benefits attorney with whom you work.

 


 

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