Education & Events

How Does the Historic DOMA Decision Impact Employers?
Originally recorded on August 28, 2013 (60 minutes)
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How Does the Historic DOMA Decision Impact Employers?
Presented by Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
August 28, 2013
10:00-11:00am EDT

 The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v Windsor declared a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, so the federal definition of marriage is no longer a legal union only between one man and one woman. Now, same-sex couples who are legally married must be treated the same as married opposite-sex couples for federal law purposes. This raises several issues for employers related to health insurance, retirement benefits, and FMLA leave for same-sex spouses.

As we wait for new federal guidance, learn how to manage these benefits and employment issues during this period of uncertainty. We'll explore how the ruling affects the taxability of welfare benefits, Affordable Care Act coverage, 401(k) and pension plans, and potential employer liability for gender discrimination.


Background on the DOMA Decision

  • Summary of U.S. v Windsor
  • Implications: retroactivity and cross-border issues 

The DOMA Decision and Welfare Benefits

  • Medical benefits
  • Health-care FSAs, HRAs, and HSAs
  • COBRA coverage
  • Affordable Care Act

Impact on Retirement Plans

  • Beneficiary designations
  • Qualified survivor annuities
  • Distribution issues

Employment-Related Issues after the DOMA Decision

  • FMLA implications
  • Employee handbook language
  • Collective bargaining issues


Norbert F. Kugele, a partner in the Grand Rapids office, specializes in employee benefits and privacy law. He helps employers understand and comply with the complex legal issues involved in designing, implementing, and administering health and welfare employee benefit programs, including compliance with Health Care Reform requirements. Norbert also has extensive experience with HIPAA privacy and security rules and how they apply to employer-sponsored group health plans. He received his law degree from the University of Illinois. Norbert can be reached at or 616-752-2186.

Steven A. Palazzolo, senior counsel in the Grand Rapids and Southfield offices, practices labor and employment law. He counsels clients on termination decisions, disciplinary issues, and on creating policies and procedures. He also helps clients with union issues, grievances, and arbitration. Steve is a former shop floor supervisor in both union and non-union plants and also worked as in-house counsel to a major multinational manufacturer. Steve received his law degree from Wayne State University. He can be reached at or 616-752-2191 (Grand Rapids) or 248-784-5091 (Southfield).

Lisa B. Zimmer, a partner in the Southfield office, counsels employers in the design, documentation, implementation, and compliance of their qualified retirement plans, welfare programs, and nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements. She has successfully represented clients with matters before the IRS, Department of Labor, and PBGC. Lisa also has managed the RFP process for investment advisory services for retirement plan clients and negotiated investment manager agreements for retirement plans, with particular emphasis on the complicated ERISA-prohibited transaction issues often found in those agreements. She received her law degree from Wayne State University. Lisa can be reached at or 248-784-5191.

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