Domestic Partner Benefits Policy

Overview

The University offers a number of benefits to same and opposite sex domestic partners of full time employees. For purposes of this policy, the University considers as "domestic partners" two individuals (same or opposite sex) living together in a committed domestic relationship but not joined in any type of legal partnership, marriage, or civil union legally recognized in Virginia.

Reporting Requirements

In order to receive University benefits for a domestic partner, the employee must complete documents attesting to the domestic partnership as required by the University's current health insurance carrier. If the relationship with the domestic partner ends, the employee must notify the Human Resources Office within thirty-one (31) days of the end of the domestic partner relationship by filing documents attesting to the termination as required by the University's current health insurance carrier. The employee must also mail a copy of the termination documents to the other party. New supporting documents must be completed if another qualifying domestic partner relationship occurs in the future; however, no new domestic partner documents can be filed until twelve (12) months after the filing of termination documents.

Benefits Extended to Domestic Partners and their Dependent Children

Health and Dental Insurance - Virginia law allows sickness and accident insurers to cover any class of persons agreed upon by an insurer and policyholder, beyond legal spouses and dependent children. The University's current group health insurance coverage and group dental coverage extends to same and opposite sex domestic partners of University employees and the dependent children of such domestic partners.

Educational Grant - Dependent children of a domestic partner are eligible for the educational grant program under the standard criteria established for this program.

Leave Policies - A domestic partner and any dependent children of a domestic partner are included in the family member definition under the leave of absence policy and other University leave policies that include family, such as bereavement leave. However, Virginia law limits the legal "spousal" relationship to a lawfully married husband and wife. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will not apply to domestic partners in Virginia as "spouses" for purposes of FMLA leave. FMLA may or may not apply to any leave taken to care for the dependent children of a domestic partner, depending on whether the employee stands "in loco parentis" to the child(ren) as defined by FMLA, as well as the age/circumstances of the child(ren). Each case will be addressed on its own facts.

Other University Benefits - Domestic partners, and dependent children of domestic partners,are included in the definition of family for purposes of other policies that apply to family, such as access to the athletic facilities and collections and services of the Undergraduate and Law libraries.

Tax Consequences

Employer coverage for individuals other than employees, their spouses, or their dependents as defined by the IRS Code and the Defense of Marriage Act, is not excluded from (and will be counted as part of) the employee's total gross taxable income. A domestic partner will not qualify as the employee's spouse. As a result, the employee will be taxed on the value of any health and/or dental coverage provided by the University for the domestic partner, less the premiums the employee pays for the insurance, unless the domestic partner meets the IRS Code definition of a "dependent" (generally, based on residence and amount of support provided by the employee), in which case the imputed income requirement would not apply. Any federal or state tax impact resulting from the imputed value of the benefits provided under the Washington and Lee University Domestic Partner Benefits Policy is the sole responsibility of the employee and domestic partner. Current IRS regulations also do not permit same or opposite sex domestic partner benefits to be paid for with pre-tax money unless the domestic partner is a dependent as defined by the IRS Code. Consequently, deductions for benefits that the domestic partner selects will occur on an after-tax basis unless tax dependent status is satisfied. Employees should check with their tax advisor and/or the IRS to determine if their domestic partner and/or his or her children will qualify under the IRC Section 152 definition of a tax dependent (as modified by 105(b), allowing coverage to be paid for and received on a nontaxable basis.) Employees whose dependents qualify must complete a Declaration of Tax Status form each year.

COBRA Rights

In accordance with the Defense of Marriage Act, unless the domestic partner and/or the dependent children of the domestic partner are also the employee 's dependent as defined by the IRS Code, federal COBRA rights are not available and will not apply to afford guaranteed continuing health or dental coverage to the domestic partner or the dependent children of the domestic partner. Note: although federal COBRA rights may not be available, the University's current health and dental plans do provide an option for continued coverage for domestic partners and their dependent children.

Flexible Benefit Limitations

Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 limits participation in health care and dependent care spending accounts to spouses (as defined under applicable state law),dependents, and "qualifying relatives" of employees. Domestic partners are not permitted to participate in the University's dependent care and health care spending account benefit programs as a spousal equivalent; however, they may satisfy the the category of "qualifying relatives" because that category includes non-relatives who live with the employee and rely on the employee for most of their support.

Survivor Benefit under University Retirement Plans

A domestic partner is not the equivalent of a spouse under federal pension law for purposes of having a legal right to any percentage of a survivor death benefit. Therefore, if an employee wishes his/her domestic partner to receive survivor income from the employee's accounts with the University's Retirement Plans, the employee must formally designate the domestic partner as a beneficiary with TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity.

NOTE: The above policy provides a general description of the benefit programs that are currently offered to eligible same and opposite sex domestic partners of University employees in accordance with existing law. Where benefits are governed by a formal plan document or a master policy, the exact terms of that plan or policy will govern. While it is presently the University's intent to continue all current benefit plans and policies, the University reserves the right to change, supplement, amend or terminate at any time any benefit plan or policy presently in effect, including but not limited to such actions as may be required or deemed appropriate by the University as a result of changes in applicable laws and regulations.