61 employees in same-sex marriages at Yale University in Connecticut (shout out to our gay blog readers at Yale!), a state that recognizes same-sex marriages, found out over winter break that the university will not be paying for their partners’ health benefits this year. Or rather, due to a clerical error, they have already paid for them, and will now begin deducting the cost of the benefits from future paychecks. Say what?
The problem (the clerical one, at least) stems from the fact that marriage is treated as a tax-free benefit on both state and federal levels, while gay marriage is only tax-free at the state level at this time. The two are separate and very much so unequal. Yale mistakenly assumed gay marriages were tax free on the federal level as they budgeted for the year. Hence, the notice that they will begin taking the money back from gay employees.
The NTY says, “Those costs can be significant. According to one employee who did not want to be publicly identified criticizing the university, paying the tax back over a three-month period would reduce take-home pay by 33 percent — and that doesn’t even include the taxes owed for this year.”
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Yale has a $16.3 BILLION endowment. In short, paying 61 valued employees’ partners’ benefits would hardly be a blip on their radar. The problem it seems, is that the employees aren’t actually valued at all in the university’s eyes.
A Yale employee adds, “They’re making it about balancing the books, when there are real consequences for the human beings who depend on the paychecks they earn,” the employee said. “Rather than apologize for the cruel timing of the letters, we got a long explanation about how this all came about and how grateful we should feel, because it could have been even worse.”
A spokesperson for Yale added that the university “looks forward to a time when there is a federal recognition of same-sex marriage and civil union rights with respect to tax withholding rules.” In short, they’ll pay when they have to, and not before.
What do you think of this disappointing decision by Yale?