If you have any questions in regards to the above, please do not hesitate to contact our offices so that we may explain the amendments to the provisions of the Code in more detail. Our address is:
Fiddler González & Rodríguez, P.S.C., P.O. Box 363507, San Juan, PR 00936-3507. Our fax (787) 759-3108.
We welcome your questions and comments.
José J. Santiago
Carlos A. Padilla
Antonio L. García
On September 18, 2013, the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the US Department of Labor issued Technical Release 2013-04 on the definition of "spouse" and "marriage" under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates employee benefit plans. The need for such guidance arises from the Supreme Court decision in the case of US. v. Windsor, which held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. (See Labor Watch, Vol. 2013, No. 8). Section 3 of DOMA provided that in determining the meaning of any federal law or regulation the word 'marriage' meant only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' referred only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
The Technical Release states that the term "spouse" will be read to refer to any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law, including individuals married to a person of the same sex who were legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, but who are domiciled in a state that does not recognize such marriages. Similarly, the term "marriage" will be read to include a same-sex marriage that is legally recognized as a marriage under any state law. The terms "spouse" and "marriage," however, do not include individuals in a formal relationship recognized by a state that is not denominated a marriage under state law, such as a domestic partnership or a civil union, regardless of whether the individuals who are in these relationships have the same rights and responsibilities as those individuals who are married under state law.
The Release explains that EBSA adopted this rule that recognizes marriages that are valid in the state in which they were celebrated, regardless of the married couple's state of domicile because it provides a uniform rule of recognition that can be applied with certainty by stakeholders, including employers, plan administrators, participants, and beneficiaries. This is consistent with the core intent underlying ERISA of promoting uniform requirements and administration for employee retirement and welfare benefit plans.
EBSA intends to issue future guidance addressing specific provisions of ERISA and its regulations. In the meantime, employers and plan administrators must begin to review and plan to amend their retirement and welfare benefit plans to ensure timely compliance with this rule.
The Labor Law Group at Fiddler González & Rodríguez, P.S.C., will issue the FGR LABOR WATCH with information of legal issues and developments in areas of interest to our friends and clients. If you know anyone who would like to receive the FGR LABOR WATCH, please feel free to forward this newsletter. For more information about any matter raised in this Labor Watch, please contact your usual FGR labor lawyer or José A. Silva Cofresí at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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