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Sexual orientation discrimination at workplace follows new law

Small companies are now beginning to deal with employment changes brought about by the Defense of Marriage Act. Implications inherent in the act have complicated decisions regarding conditions of employment. This is usually the case when a company's employees reside in neighboring states that have conflicting policies on same-sex marriage. The confusion stems from the decision of the Supreme Court to deny benefits to same sex couples, while permitting individual states to determine the validity of these unions.

In areas like metropolitan District of Columbia, Washington, one partner may work in Maryland, which recognizes same sex marriages, and the other in Virginia, which is yet to approve same sex marriages. Further complications extend to family leave, pension and other employee benefits. Tax consequences and beneficiary issues also come into play. The consequences of these decisions have yet to be completely determined.

There are 37 states that do not recognize same sex marriage. However, employment benefits are regulated at both the federal and state levels. In states in which employees have same sex marriages, entitlements of employment benefits can vary greatly, including the Family Medical Leave Act. According to legal experts, if one partner becomes ill and the other needs to take job-protected leave in order to care for the other, laws regarding medical leave will have many employers scratching their heads trying to figure out what is allowed under the law.

At the end of the day, the final decision may rest with individual companies and their policies on employment. While it is illegal to discriminate against an employee based on sexual orientation or lifestyle, new laws and decisions can complicate employment conditions. If you or your partner are unsure of what your rights are under the law, it would be wise to seek advice from a legal specialist in sexual orientation discrimination. This will allow you to inform yourself of rights at the workplace.

Source: Washingtonpost.com, "Private companies grapple with Supreme Court's DOMA decision" By Catherine Ho, Jun. 28, 2013

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