HRC Blog

Dept. of Labor: New Data on Domestic Partner Benefits

Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director

Today, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on domestic partner benefits offered by public and private employers across the country as part of its National Compensation Survey (NCS).  This is the first time that a federal government survey has asked employers about domestic partner benefits. 

The NCS surveys over 15,000 employers nationwide. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis blogged about the data and, in a release issued today,  noted the importance of asking employers about the diverse range of benefits they provide:

"For the first time, in order to better understand the benefits available to an increasingly diverse American workforce, this year's survey includes information on domestic partner benefits. This comprehensive report will be of significant interest to employers and workers alike. It provides a better, fuller picture of employee benefits in workplaces across our nation.”

Offering domestic partner benefits has increasingly become a standard best practice in America’s workplaces, with nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies offering them.  The data released today reflects that progress, but also reminds us that, despite the advances in corporate America, many American workers still lack access to equal benefits for their families.  For example, the NCS shows that only 29% of private sector workers have access to health insurance benefits for a same-sex domestic partner, and that number drops to around 20% in the South and Midwest.  It also indicates that lower wage earners are much less likely to have access to these benefits.

We’ll continue to look at the data and provide more analysis in the coming days, but perhaps the most important takeaway today is that, for the first time, we have data from the federal government to analyze.  As with so much about our community – from the health disparities we face, to simply how many of us there are – we can’t begin to fully understand and address the challenges that LGBT people face until major surveys and studies actually ask about them.  Thankfully, the Obama administration is taking critical steps to ensure that questions about LGBT people and their families are finally asked.

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