Equal Benefits Program FAQ
"Equal Benefits Law"
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Equal Benefits Law?
The County’s Equal Benefits Law, also known as the Domestic Partner Benefits Law (the "Law") is contained in the Montgomery County Code ("Code"), at Section 11B-33D. The Law establishes that, for certain County contracts, a contractor or subcontractor, as an employer, 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.
2. What does "certain contracts" mean?
The Law applies to County procurement contracts subject to 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.
3. What comprises a domestic partnership?
For purposes of the Law, a domestic partnership can take one of two forms. First, a "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 or marriage is permitted. Secondly, 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 of 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.
4. What benefits are included in the Equal Benefits Law?
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.
5. What does "cash equivalent" mean?
This 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.
6. If an employer does not offer benefits to any employee, or to any employee with a spouse, must the employer commence offering benefits in order to comply with the Equal Benefits Law?
No. The Law requires that a County contractor or subcontractor offer the domestic partners of its employees the same benefits it offers to the spouses of its employees.
7. Can a County contractor or subcontractor discharge or take other adverse action against an employee, simply because the employee seeks to enforce its rights under the Law?
No. A contractor must not discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee for asserting any right under the Law, or for filing a complaint of a violation.
8. What remedy is available to an aggrieved employee with a domestic partner?
The Law provides that an aggrieved employee, as a third-party beneficiary to the County contract, may, by civil action, recover the cash equivalent of any benefit denied in violation of the Law. Note that the civil action must be brought by the employee.
9. What mechanisms may the County employ to enforce the Law?
In the instance of a demonstrated violation, the Law provides for the County to issue a written decision that may include sanctions, including withholding payment due the contractor in an amount sufficient to pay an employee the cash equivalent of the benefits denied, and to satisfy liquidated damages specified in a related contract. In addition, each contract covered by the Law must require the contractor and all subcontractors to comply with the Law, and must specify that an aggrieved employee, as a third-party beneficiary to the contract, may by civil action recover the cash equivalent of any benefit denied in violation of the Law or other compensable damages. ?
10. When is the Equal Benefits Law effective?
The Law applies to any contract awarded on or after
11. How does an employee note a complaint to the County of an alleged violation of the Law?
An employee may contact the County’s Office of Business Relations and Compliance, at 240-777-9918, to note a complaint of an alleged violation of the Law.
12. Where can one find a copy of the Law?
Click HERE to view a complete text of the Bill.