UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > January 2001 Search

January 2001

Delphi Question: Insurance and common-law marriage

Question #463 (received 11 December):

While reviewing the benefits policies due to recent changes in medical providers covered by PacifiCare, I came across an obvious form of discrimination by UCAR. In the Eligibility Requirements section for each plan, domestic partners of the opposite sex are being discriminated against. The policy in question is in the UCAR Benefits Manual, under Section 1 (Eligibility Requirements), part B.4 (Dependent/Domestic Partner), for each medical plan.

I am not talking about persons of the opposite gender just living together for short periods of time, but for committed couples of the opposite gender in the same type of long-term relationship as called out for couples of the same gender in this policy. I imagine this would be for couples who may meet the Colorado common-law marriage requirements in every way except for having presented themselves as husband and wife in public.

In the light of the information presented at the mandatory sexual harassment training session, [we know that] discrimination on the basis of gender is strictly prohibited by federal law. How does UCAR propose to remedy this inequity?

Response (19 December):

UCAR policy does not discriminate against couples of the opposite gender who live together under the conditions you describe. In fact, under these conditions couples of the opposite gender have the same rights as couples of the same gender.

UCAR has accepted common-law marriage as the basis for the coverage of spouses under the medical plan for a number of years. This provides coverage for individuals who are in opposite-gender, long-term relationships covered by the legal definition of common-law marriage in the State of Colorado. This definition excludes same-gender marriages. Employees in same-gender relationships cannot legally declare they have a common-law marriage under Colorado law.

In 1996 UCAR initiated changes to provide coverage for same-gender relationships that are consistent with the elements of common-law marriages. This was done to provide comparable access to medical coverage regardless of gender. UCAR's medical coverage providers (Kaiser and PacifiCare) were consulted to determine the acceptable provisions of such relationships for insurance purposes. These provisions are published in each medical summary plan description.

Employees in long-term opposite-gender relationships may sign an affidavit certifying they have a common-law spouse, and that spouse will then be eligible for coverage under UCAR's medical plans. Employees in long-term same-gender relationships may sign an affidavit certifying they have a domestic partner, and that partner will then be eligible for coverage under UCAR's medical plans. In both cases, the partner or spouse must also sign the affidavit. Thus the requirements for obtaining insurance for couples of the same or opposite gender are the same, allowing for Colorado law. Copies of the affidavit are readily available in Human Resources.

If same-gender relationships were allowed under the legal definition of common-law marriages in the future, I would expect the separate provision for domestic partner coverage to be eliminated.

—Bob Roesch, director, Human Resources

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the coordinator, Janet Evans (ext. 1114, ML room 517). They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential; they must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2. Questions and answers of general interest to staff are submitted to Staff Notes Monthly by Janet. They may be edited for publication. For more information, including links to questions and answers published in Staff Notes Monthly and a log of all questions submitted since 1995, see the Delphi Service Web page.

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UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > January 2001 Search

Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Mon Jan 22 15:24:15 MST 2001