Domestic Partner Benefits
Davidson College offers all of its regular, full-time employees the ability to insure their domestic partners under various benefit programs in accordance with the terms and conditions of such plans.
These programs currently include Davidson's medical, dental, vision, flexible spending, health savings account, health reimbursement account, cancer, accidental death and dismemberment, and voluntary life insurance plans. Davidson College also offers all of its regular, full-time employees the ability to participate in non-plan benefits as they may be applied or relate to their domestic partners in the same manner as currently applicable to legal spouses of Davidson College employees. Such non-plan related benefits currently include Davidson's bereavement leave, family and medical leave, dependent tuition assistance, employee assistance and benefit advocate policies or programs.
The insurance coverage and other benefits extension described in this policy for domestic partners will not apply where the provision of such coverage and benefits by Davidson College is barred by the terms of the applicable plans or otherwise prohibited by law.
Please note, domestic partners must otherwise further meet certain enrollment qualifications, which are described in greater detail below.
The purpose of this policy is generally to explain how these programs will work for qualifying domestic partners. Please note that these guidelines do not apply to spouses legally married under the laws of the place of their celebration.
In addition, Davidson College will only contribute toward the cost of any benefit program for an employee's domestic partner to the same extent that the college contributes towards the cost of coverage for an employee's spouse.
As you may know, the various laws that impact spouses and domestic partners have been changing rapidly and additional changes, regulatory guidance and interpretations may be forthcoming. Therefore, the information provided in these guidelines may not reflect the most current state of the law.
Davidson recommends you contact a member of the college's Human Resources Office with any specific questions you may have regarding Davidson's current benefit programs.
Federal Policy Issues
While Davidson's intention is to provide domestic partners with the same access to benefits and other programs as married couples, federal law prohibits the college from providing identical tax advantages in connection with their participation in those programs. In general, most of the federal tax benefits provided to spouses will not apply to domestic partners.
Group Health Plan Participation
Your domestic partner may be eligible to participate in the college's group medical, dental and vision plans as a spousal equivalent, subject to all of such plans' terms and conditions. However, as noted in the Flexible Benefit Limitations section below, unless exempted, you will pay the premiums for your domestic partner's coverage in such plans through payroll deductions on an after-tax basis for federal income tax purposes, and you will be taxed on the value of the contributions Davidson makes towards your partner's coverage.
Flexible Benefit Limitations
Davidson's Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan provides a tax advantage for eligible employees under Code Section 125. This plan permits participants to use pre-tax dollars to pay for premiums to the group medical, dental and vision plans and to fund health FSAs and dependent care FSAs. Moreover, Code Section 125 plans are regulated by the code, which limits participation to legal spouses and dependents (as defined under applicable federal law) of employees.
As a result, domestic partners may not participate in, or be covered by, these pre-tax programs for federal income tax purposes. Thus, unless exempted, the pre-tax contributions that you make to pay for coverage under the plan may not be used to provide coverage or to reimburse payments for your domestic partner. In addition, although Code Section 125 permits plan participants to make certain mid-year changes to add a domestic partner to their group medical, dental and vision coverage, payment of premiums for such coverage cannot occur under the FSA plan.
There is one federal exception to this rule for Section 125 plans. If your domestic partner meets IRS guidelines for being a "dependent", then he or she potentially may be included under the college's Flexible Benefits Plan. The dependency guidelines are complicated and include, among other things, residence tests, income tests and support tests. Otherwise, you and your domestic partner will be considered separately for benefit purposes, with payment of premiums for your coverage (but not your partner's) being available on a pre-federal tax basis.
HSAs and HRAs
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) may only be used to make tax-advantaged reimbursements of medical expenses of employees, their legal spouses, and their dependents, as determined under federal tax law. Any reimbursements for domestic partners will be taxable to you and may be subject to additional penalty tax.
Group Term Life Insurance
The value of any group term life insurance that you provide for your domestic partner will be included in your gross income.
HIPAA Special Enrollment Rights
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides special enrollment rights outside of annual open enrollment periods to the legal spouses and dependents (as defined under applicable federal law) of health plan participants. However, unless a domestic partner meets the dependency requirements described above, the special HIPAA enrollment rules will not be available to such partners.
Federal tax law provides rights to legal spouses that are not available to domestic partners. Among others, these include rights to (a) consent to certain types of plan distributions, (b) receive certain death benefits, and (c) receive benefits in the event of a divorce. Nonetheless, you may name your domestic partner as the beneficiary of any non-spouse death benefits under any retirement plan in which you participate, in accordance with the terms of such plan.
Registration and Termination
In order to receive college benefits relating to or to insure a domestic partner, you must register your partner with the Human Resources Office. This is done by completing and filing an Affidavit of Spousal Equivalency (PDF), for review and approval by Human Resources. You only need to complete this affidavit once, and it will remain in effect until such time as your relationship with your domestic partner ends.
It is also your responsibility to notify the Human Resources Office if your domestic partner relationship terminates or otherwise ends. You must give such notice within 31 days following the end of your domestic partner relationship by filing a Statement of Termination of Spousal Equivalency (PDF). That statement shall affirm that the domestic partner relationship is terminated as of the date of execution. A copy of the statement must also be mailed to the other party by the individual authorizing the termination action.
If you enter another qualifying domestic partner relationship after your former domestic partner relationship ends and you wish to provide coverage under Davidson's plans to your new domestic partner, you will need to register your new domestic partner with the college's Human Resources Office as outlined above.
However, although you may register a new legally-recognized civil union or registered domestic partner relationship with Human Resources at any time following the end of your domestic partner relationship, you will not be eligible to file a new Affidavit of Spousal Equivalency to enroll a new non-legally registered domestic partner until 36 months after the filing of a Statement of Termination. The 36-month waiting period may be waived if you reconcile with your terminated domestic partner and file another qualifying Affidavit of Spousal Equivalency with the same domestic partner within 31 days following the filing date of the Statement of Termination.
Insurance Application and Enrollment
Once you have filed an Affidavit of Spousal Equivalency with the Human Resources Office, if such registration is approved, you may enroll your domestic partner in Davidson's various benefit plans and programs as if such person was your spouse. Once enrolled, your domestic partner will receive insurance cards, to the extent applicable.
Children and Other Dependents
Like all Davidson College employees, if children are your personal, legal responsibility and you have financial obligations to them for medical/dental insurance purposes, you may enroll such children for benefit coverage at the same level of shared expense with the college as with other Davidson College employee dependents. Children of your domestic partner may not be insured under the college's benefit programs as part of your domestic partner's insurance plan. Children of your domestic partner also cannot be included under your plan since they have no legal ties to you. If, however, there is a joint adoption relationship between you, your domestic partner and a child, then the dependent child may be included under your individual plan. If you wish to enroll your children in the college's medical/dental insurance plan, you must supply the Human Resources Office with the appropriate paperwork (such as birth certificates, adoption records or divorce decrees) in order to confirm your financial obligation.
The costs associated with the particular benefits that your domestic partner selects will be deducted from your Davidson College paycheck on a bi-weekly (for non-exempt employees) or on a monthly basis (for exempt employees). Employer coverage for individuals other than employees, their legal spouses or their dependents as defined by the code are not excluded from (and will be counted as part of) your taxable income for federal tax purposes. As noted above, current IRS regulations do not permit domestic partner benefits to be paid with pre-tax money for federal tax purposes. Further, under Federal Treasury Regulations, an employee must include in gross income the fair market value of any fringe benefit provided to a domestic partner, less the amount, if any, paid by the employee. Consequently, some deductions from your pay for benefits that you select for your domestic partner will occur on an after-tax basis.
The state tax treatment of domestic partner benefits and your ability to pay for such benefits with pre-tax money for purposes of state taxes will vary from state to state.
Generally, a domestic partner will not qualify as your spouse or dependent. As a result, the exclusion from gross income under Code Section 106 will not apply to the medical and other insurance coverage provided to your domestic partner. Under Treasury Regulations, an employee must include in gross income the fair market value of any fringe benefit less the amount, if any, paid for by, or on behalf of, the recipient. Thus, you will be taxed on the value of the coverage provided by Davidson College for your domestic partner less the premiums that you pay for the insurance.
Finally, unless your domestic partner qualifies as your legal spouse or dependent (as defined under applicable federal law), the fair market value of your domestic partner's benefit will be considered wages attributable to you for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) purposes. Accordingly, you will be required to pay FICA and FUTA tax on the amount attributed to you as income (the value of the coverage). Please contact the Human Resources Office if you have any questions regarding the impact that domestic partner benefits will have on your income tax and withholding.
Unless your domestic partner is also your dependent as defined by the code (as discussed in more detail in the Flexible Benefit Limitations section above), federal Consolidated Omnibus Benefits Reconciliation Act (COBRA) rights are not available and will not apply to your domestic partner. This means that if your domestic partner's medical/dental insurance coverage with Davidson College is canceled as a result of the termination or end of your employment or the ending of your domestic partner relationship, your domestic partner will not be eligible to continue his or her medical/dental insurance on a voluntary basis under COBRA. You may, however, be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage for you and/or your dependent children, if any, upon the occurrence of a qualifying event.
Other College Benefits
In addition to the specific insurance plans discussed above, Davidson College also offers all of its regular, full-time employees the ability to participate in non-plan related benefits as they may be applied or relate to their domestic partners in the same manner as that currently offered to legal spouses of Davidson College employees. Such non-plan related benefits currently include Davidson's bereavement leave, family and medical leave, dependent tuition assistance, employee assistance and benefit advocate policies or programs. For further information regarding the potential application of any such policy to your domestic partner relationship, please contact the Human Resources Office.
All information supplied by you and your domestic partner in connection with this policy shall be kept confidential to the extent practicable, and this information shall not be released with the exception of to the Human Resources Office, the benefits and payroll departments, and the applicable insurance carriers and benefit plan administrators that are involved in the processing of the insurance enrollments and payroll deductions applicable to your benefits and the record keeping for the same. However, like all employees, your enrollment and all documentation relating to these domestic partner benefits shall be part of your personnel file, which is subject to review for job-related purposes by your supervisors and other Davidson College management personnel. You should also know that, like all employees, your personnel file may be subject to general discovery by third parties through subpoena, court order, or as otherwise required of Davidson College by law.
We understand that the issue of benefits for your domestic partner is complex. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact the Human Resources Office at 704-894-2213.
The above policy provides a general description of the benefit programs that are currently offered to eligible, domestic partners of Davidson College employees. For actual descriptions of the benefits available, reference must be made to the individual plans and summary plan descriptions. Where benefits are governed by a formal plan document or a master insurance or benefits policy, the exact terms of that plan or policy will govern. While it is presently Davidson College's intent to continue all current benefit plans and policies, Davidson College reserves the right to change, supplement, amend or terminate at any time any benefit plan or policy presently in effect. In the event that a benefit plan or policy is changed, supplemented, amended or terminated, employees will be informed as soon as practically possible.