Okay, okay. I know we don't have gay marriage in Florida quite yet. The July 17 Florida ruling on gay marriage only applies to the Keys, and it's stayed pending appeal. Still, there are multiple cases pending around the state, and it's only a matter of time before someone starts issuing licenses and performing marriages.
How does that affect employee rights? There are several ways Florida employees and employers will be impacted once gay marriage starts happening in Florida, so start preparing now:
Family and Medical Leave: Because FMLA applies to leave for care of spouses, Florida employers will have to start granting leave for gay employees who are married. If you have a sick partner and are married, you may qualify for FMLA leave, assuming your employer is large enough and you've been there at least a year. Start gathering those forms and have them ready for your spouse's doctor to fill out so you can put in for leave once you're married if your partner is sick.
Pensions: Spousal benefits will have to be updated to include gay married couples. You will need to make sure you adjust any defined benefit plans if you want to include your new spouse.
Benefits: Health and life insurance will have to be updated to include spouses of gay employees. If your new spouse needs coverage, you need to contact HR to get them on the plan ASAP.
Marital status discrimination: While it still isn't illegal in Florida to discriminate based on sexual orientation, except in some counties and cities, it will be illegal to discriminate against employees just because you don't believe in gay marriage or don't like that they married a same-sex partner. If your employer starts treating you differently after your marriage, you may have a discrimination claim.
Tax filing status: Once you're married, you'll be able to update your tax filing status and employers will have to deal with updated W-4 forms with revised withholdings.
Confidentiality: If you have an agreement that says it can't be disclosed to anyone but your spouse, you may now disclose it to your married partner. This is one of the things I always have to caution unmarried couples, gay or straight about. You could be severely sanctioned if you tell a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner about, say, how much severance you got. All they have to do to mess you up is tell the employer they know what you got and all hell will break loose. Once you're married, you can probably tell and not be sanctioned for it.
Privilege: I absolutely hate having to exclude gay partners from attorney-client meetings, but it's necessary so there's no waiver of attorney-client privilege. Once you're married, your spouse can attend even attorney-client meetings with your permission.
Start planning now, because it's going to start happening very soon. Have your plan in place as to how you will protect your spouse before you say, "I do." And Florida employers, best have your management-side lawyer start updating your policies and forms to make sure you aren't caught flat-footed.
Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.