Frequently Asked Questions: Equal Benefits

What is the Equal Benefits Ordinance?
What types of contracts/agreements are covered by the Ordinance?
When does the Ordinance become applicable?
Who is covered by the Ordinance?
What is a covered contractor required to do under the Ordinance?
What benefits are included?
What criteria defines a domestic partnership?
Won't domestic partner benefits increase a contractor's health insurance costs?
Where can a domestic partnership be registered?
Are there insurance companies in Washington State that will cover domestic partners?
What happens if a contractor is found to be in violation of the Ordinance?
How can a contractor comply with the Ordinance?
What if a contractor is subject to a collective bargaining agreement?
What happens to contracts in existence before the Ordinance was passed?
Are there any exceptions or waivers to the Ordinance?
Who is responsible for administering the Ordinance?


What is the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

In summary, the Equal Benefits Ordinance (EBO) requires that City contractors who contract with the City for contracts of $50,000 or more, and who provide benefits to their employees with spouses, must also provide the same benefits to their employees with a domestic partner.

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What types of contracts/agreements are covered by the Ordinance?

The Ordinance covers any City contract/agreement for $50,000 or more. This includes contracts/agreements for public works, consulting, or supplies, materials, equipment, or services.

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When does the Ordinance become applicable?

The Ordinance applies to all contracts/agreements executed on or after January 1, 2005.

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Who is covered by the Ordinance?

For all contracts of $50,000 or more the Ordinance applies to:

  • A contractor's/subcontractor's operations that occur within the City.
  • A contractor's/subcontractor's operations that occur on property owned by the City or on property that the City has a right to occupy.
  • A contractor's/subcontractor's operations that occur elsewhere in the United States if the work being performed is work related to a City contract.

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What is a covered contractor required to do under the Ordinance?

The Ordinance requires the contractor to:

  • Certify that equal benefits will be provided to employees with spouses and to employees with domestic partners.
  • Allow the City access to records so that the City can verify compliance with the Ordinance.

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What benefits are included?

The Ordinance applies to health benefits only, including medical, dental and vision.

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What criteria defines a domestic partnership?

Domestic partners can be same or opposite sex partners who are:

  • Two people who have a relationship of mutual support, caring and commitment and who
  • Share the same regular and permanent residence.
  • Partners are neither married nor related by blood in a manner that would bar their marriage in Washington State.
  • Partners are each other's sole domestic partner and at least 18 years of age.

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Won't domestic partner benefits increase a contractor's health insurance costs?

Various studies have discovered that costs increased by no more than 1% for employers who offer domestic partner benefits.

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Where can a domestic partnership be registered?

A domestic partnership can be registered with their employer, or at any governmental agency that maintains such registry. Some local registries are:

  • City of Olympia
  • City of Tumwater
  • City of Seattle
  • King County

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Are there insurance companies in Washington State that will cover domestic partners?

Under our state’s insurance laws, employers who offer a health plan are not required to provide coverage for their employees’ spouses or domestic partners.  However, if the employer does offer spousal coverage, it must be available for both same-sex and opposite-sex spouses as well as domestic partners – this is not impacted by the employer’s number of employees.

 

Earlier this year, the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, along with the Attorney General’s Office and the State Human Rights Commission issued a joint statement that further elaborates on this requirement.  Bear in mind, our state’s laws only apply to fully-insured health plans issued in our state, not health plans that are self-funded through an employer (these are mostly regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor)

 

With the passage of R-74, on June 30, 2014 all active state registered same-sex domestic partnerships where both partners are under age 62 have converted to marriages.  Domestic partners that meet these criteria are now considered a spouse under state law.  It would be a violation of state law for an insurance company to offer a health plan in our state that would cover spouses, but exclude coverage for same-sex spouses or domestic partners.

More information on domestic partnersips and insurance can be found here.

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What happens if a contractor is found to be in violation of the Ordinance?

The contractor may be deemed to be in material breach of the bid or subsequent City agreement. When that happens, the City Manager has the power to determine and impose appropriate sanctions including, but not limited to:

  • As allowed by law, disqualification of the contractor from being awarded a City contract
  • Contractual remedies, including, but not limited to termination of the contract

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How can a contractor comply with the Ordinance?

Provided that a contractor does not discriminate in providing benefits between employees with spouses and employees with domestic partners, a contractor may:

  • Elect to provide benefits to individuals in addition to employees' spouses or domestic partners,
  • Allow each employee to designate a member of his/her household eligible for spousal equivalent benefits,
  • Provide no benefits, or
  • Offer a cash equivalent.

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What if a contractor is subject to a collective bargaining agreement?

If the union does not have domestic partner benefits, the contractor must determine what % of the employee's income is covered in union benefits related to the Ordinance and either obtain insurance for the domestic partner, or provide a cash equivalent to allow the domestic partner to purchase his/her own benefits.

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What happens to contracts in existence before the Ordinance was passed?

Any contract or purchase order in place prior to the Ordinance's effective date must be renegotiated to contain the Ordinance requirements when it comes up for an amendment, extension or renewal.

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Are there any exceptions or waivers to the Ordinance?

No. Prior to July 8, 2014 some exceptions/waivers were allowed. However, changes in the law no longer allow these.

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Who is responsible for administering the Ordinance?

For questions regarding the contract itself, contact the City Department who awarded the contract.

For questions about the Ordinance, contact the City Clerk's Office at 360.753.8325.

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