Effective January 1, 2011 contracts subject to the County’s Living Wage Law or the County’s Prevailing Wage Law are subject to the County’s Equal Benefits Law, also known as the Domestic Partner Benefits Law.
Under the law, contractors or subcontractors, as employers, must provide the same benefits to an employee with a domestic partner as those provided to an employee with a spouse. If a required benefit cannot reasonably be provided to a domestic partner, the contractor or subcontractor must pay the employee the cash equivalent. Cash equivalent refers to the actual cost to the contractor or subcontractor, as the employer, for the insurance benefits provided to the spouse of a married employee, which the employer is not able to provide to an employee’s domestic partner.
A benefit means a plan, program, or policy provided or offered by a contractor or subcontractor to some or all employees as part of the employer’s total compensation package. This may include: bereavement leave; family medical leave; sick leave; health benefits; dental benefits; disability insurance; life insurance; and retirement benefits.
The law applies to County procurement contracts subject to Montgomery County Code Section 11B-33A, the Wage Requirements Law, also known as the Living Wage Law, and those subject to Code Section 11B-33C, the Prevailing Wage Law.
The law defines domestic partnership as taking one of two forms. First, domestic partnership means a relationship between two individuals of the same sex that has been licensed as a civil union or marriage in a jurisdiction where such a civil union is permitted. In the alternative, a domestic partnership means an unlicensed relationship between two individuals of the same sex who: share a close personal relationship and are responsible for each other’s welfare; have shared the same legal residence for at least 12 months; are at least 18 years old; have voluntarily consented to the relationship, without fraud or duress; are not married to, or in a domestic partnership with any other person; are not related by blood or affinity in a way that would disqualify them from marriage under State law if the employee and partner were opposite sexes; are each legally competent to contract; share financial obligations; and legally register the domestic partnership if a domestic partnership registration system exists in the jurisdiction where the employee resides.
A contractor or subcontractor must not discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee for asserting any right under the law, or for filing a complaint of a violation.
The law provides that an aggrieved employee as a third-party beneficiary, may, by civil action, recover the cash equivalent of any benefit denied in violation of the law. The County may perform audits and investigate any complaint of a violation of the law. In the instance of a demonstrated violation, the law provides for sanctions including withholding payment due the contractor and liquidated damages. The law applies to any contract awarded on or after January 1, 2011, but does not apply to any renewal or extension of a contract that was originally awarded before January 1, 2011.
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