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Google to Reimburse Tax on Domestic Partner Benefits

July 2, 2010
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Google Inc. is offering to reimburse its gay and lesbian employees for the additional federal tax they pay on the value of company-paid domestic partner benefits.

The offer, which would apply retroactively to January 1, came after a gay employee pointed out the disparity for same-sex couples covered by the Mountain View, California-based technology firm’s employee health benefits plan, a spokesman said Thursday, July 1.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for people operations, acknowledged that it wasn’t fair that same-sex couples were paying an estimated $1,069 more annually in federal taxes on those benefits, the spokesman said.

To equalize other benefits available to same-sex partners of employees, Google also is eliminating a one-year waiting period to qualify for infertility benefits. It also is including domestic partners in its family leave policy, going beyond the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to give at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers to recover from a medical condition or care for family members.

The Google spokesman said it is uncertain at this point how many of the company’s 20,600 employees are likely to take up Google on the reimbursement, which will be noted as a line item on their paychecks rather than added to their pay. He explained that adding it to their compensation would give the impression that gay and lesbian employees were being paid more than their heterosexual counterparts.

“We’re not actually increasing the salaries of the employees. Salaries are tied to the work you do. It’s more of a reimbursement. It’s like a company paying for an employee’s cell phone bill. We’re offering the option of a reimbursement to cover a federal tax,” the spokesman said.

He said Google is not disclosing the estimated additional cost for the reimbursement.  

Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

 

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