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California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act

Prepared By: Melissa C. Marsh, Los Angeles Employment Attorney
Written: December 2004

California Family Code Section 297 defines domestic partners as two legally competent adults of the same gender "who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring," who share a common residence, who are not married and not related by blood in such a manner as to prevent marriage, and who are not a member of another domestic partnership. However, the couple may be from two different genders if over the age of 62. To qualify for the below-mentioned benefits, both partners must satisfy the above-mentioned requirements and file a declaration of domestic partnership with the Secretary of State.

Beginning January 1, 2005, the "Domestic Partner's Rights and Responsibilities Act," entitles registered domestic partners in the State of California to virtually all of the same rights, benefits and responsibilities granted to married persons under state law. Consequently, any workplace benefit or policy benefiting employees and their spouses that is provided by a California employer's policy or practice, or by California law, must be provided to employees and their registered domestic partners in the state of California. For example:

  • Health Insurance. Employers who provide health insurance to spouses must now offer insurance to registered domestic partners of their employees.

  • Cal-COBRA. Cal-COBRA is a state law applicable to employers with 2 to 19 employees that affords health insurance continuation rights, typically in post-employment, extended leave of absence and divorce situations. The new legislation will now afford registered domestic partner participants in the health plan the same continuation rights as spousal participants.

  • California Paid Family Disability Leave Insurance. California's Paid Family Disability Leave program permits employees to receive limited replacement wages for up to 6 weeks of leave in any 12 month period to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or ""registered"" domestic partner, or to bond with a new child by birth, adoptions or foster care placement.

California's Domestic Partner's Rights and Responsibilities Act does not affect federal laws. Since federal law does not recognize the relationships of same-sex couples, those registered domestic partners do not receive ""spousal"" parity under federal tax and employment laws.

A word of caution. While there is no apparent right of privacy to registered domestic partner status alone, employers should not only discourage banter about same-sex relationships, they should also consider segregating records that show registered domestic partner status from the general personnel files. This small act may reduce the chances that a manager or supervisor will be aware of an employee’s registered domestic partner status if the employee does not wish it to be commonly known. Often, a manager’s legitimate lack of protected status can help defend against a claim that adverse employment action was taken because of a protected status.

If you have any questions, or would like further information, please e-mail us at MMarsh or call: 818-849-5206.

© 2004 Melissa C. Marsh. All Rights Reserved.

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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site was prepared by Melissa C. Marsh for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information provided in my articles and alerts should not be relied upon, or used as a substitute for professional legal advice from an attorney you retain to advise or represent you. Your use of this Internet site does not create an attorney- client relationship. Transmission of this article is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. All uses of the contents of this site, other than personal uses, are prohibited. You may print or email a copy of any information posted on this web site for your own personal, non-commercial, use, but you may not publish any of the articles or posts on this web site without the Express Written Permission of Melissa C. Marsh.

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Located in Los Angeles, California, the Law Office of Melissa C. Marsh handles business law and corporation law matters as a lawyer for clients throughout Los Angeles including Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Hollywood, West LA as well as Riverside County, San Fernando, Ventura County, and Santa Clarita. Attorney Melissa C. Marsh has considerable experience handling business matters both nationally and internationally. We routinely assist our clients with incorporation, forming a California corporation, forming a California llc, partnership, annual minutes, shareholder meetings, director meetings, getting a taxpayer ID number (EIN), buying a business, selling a business, commercial lease review, employee disputes, independent contractors, construction, and personal matters such as preparing a will, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and more.