New Hampshire lawmakers this year approved legislative
proposals that affect employers, including the establishment of a job training
fund and the ability of same gender couples to enter into civil unions.
Governor John Lynch on May 31 signed Chapter 58, which allows
same-gender couples to enter civil unions and have the same rights,
responsibilities, and obligations as married couples. For employers, this
affects healthcare and workers' compensation benefits as well as the issue of
possible marital status discrimination. The law will take effect on January 1,
2008. With the passage of the new law, New Hampshire became the fourth state,
after Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont, to extend this right to same-gender
Health insurance. As
before, employers aren't obligated to provide spousal or family coverage. But
those who do provide it may enter into a bit of legal complication, according
to Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). According to GLAD, employers
who obtain their health coverage from commercial insurers are subject to state
law and will therefore be required to cover partners in civil unions. What's
less clear is the extent of that same obligation on self-insured plans, which
are subject to federal law, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
The problem here is that another federal law, the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA), bars federally regulated benefits and protections to
partners in civil unions. That means, for example, that civil union partners
aren't entitled to spousal benefits under the federal Social Security law.
According to GLAD, this may also mean that self-insured plans, because they are
regulated by the federal government, may not be required to extend spousal or
dependent coverage to partners in a civil union. Those plans almost certainly
may do so voluntarily, however.
Under the same line of reasoning, New Hampshire residents who
work for the federal government and are partners in civil unions will not be
entitled to spousal or dependent benefits under the Federal Employees Health
Benefits Program. Civil union partners who work for state or local government,
however, will be entitled to the same health insurance rights and benefits
provided to married employees. That's because state law, not federal, governs
those public employer plans.
Workers' compensation. Civil union partners and families are entitled to the same family benefits that
would be available to spouses and children under traditional marriages.
Protection against marital status discrimination under
state law. As of January 1, 2008, the
partners in a civil union will be entitled to protection against marital status
discrimination under state law. The state employment discrimination laws apply
to employers of six or more.
Job Training Fund
Chapter 204, signed by Governor Lynch on June 6, restores the
state's Job Training Fund, which helps private businesses train new workforces
and retrain existing employees for new technologies and new jobs. To do this,
the new law dedicates up to $1 million per year from the administrative segment
of the state's unemployment trust fund. This will not affect that part of the
fund from which jobless benefits are paid. Employers taking advantage of the
fund are required to match the grants dollar for dollar.