Regents approve new domestic-partners benefits

05 June 2002 | The UC Board of Regents voted May 16 to extend to eligible UC employees with domestic partners a set of retirement benefits mirroring those now offered to married UC employees.

Employees who are members of the UC Retirement Plan (UCRP) and their qualified domestic partners and/or family members will now be able to receive two types of death-related retirement benefits:

• Pre-retirement survivor income, paid to an eligible domestic partner, eligible child(ren) or eligible parent if the UCRP member dies while employed at UC, and

• Post-retirement survivor continuance income, paid to an eligible domestic partner, eligible child(ren) or eligible parent if the UCRP member dies after leaving UC.

Prior to the regents’ vote, only UCRP members with spouses and/or dependent children or dependent parents could qualify for these benefits.

“For many of us, the idea of not being able to pass on our hard-earned retirement benefits has been a very real concern,” said UCSF employee Shane Snowdon, chair of the UC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Associ-ation. “ We are deeply grateful to the university for the increased financial peace of mind this gives us and our families.”

“These new retirement benefits will give many UC employees and their loved ones significant additional financial security,” said Judy Boyette, UC associate vice president for human resources.

Employee efforts
Staff and faculty from Berkeley, along with their counterparts at other campuses, have worked for a number of years to help secure equity for all UC employees in health and retirement benefits.

Robert Anderson — a Berkeley professor of economics and math and former chair of the systemwide committee on faculty welfare — helped to develop cost estimates for the measures. Following the May 16 vote in Los Angeles, at which he testified, a pleased Anderson noted that the statewide academic senate has long supported benefits equity, as has an active group of employees.

“This has been an effort on the part of a lot of people throughout the UC system including at Berkeley…,” he said. “I think that that was very important in getting it onto the agenda.”

Clark Kerr Campus residence hall manager Jonathan Winters recalled the earlier campaign, which he helped organize, to extend health coverage to domestic partners of either sex. The regents passed the measure by a one-vote margin in 1997.

Since that time, events such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the dog-mauling death of San Francisco resident Diane Whipple have highlighted the plight of same-sex domestic partners who were not eligible for survivor benefits, and have contributed to a shift in public attitudes, he thinks. “Dynamics around domestic partner benefits became a very public issue, and people’s sympathies are with surviving partners.”

Winters and other employees argued that equalizing benefits would provide financial and emotional benefits to individual employees and retirees and would help with recruitment, retention and morale.

Proposals and impact
As requested by the regents at their January meeting, three proposals in all were submitted to the board: one concerning retirement benefits for employees with same-sex domestic partners; one concerning retirement benefits for employees with opposite-sex domestic partners; and a third concerning retirement benefits for unmarried employees without domestic partners.

The same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners proposals, which offer identical benefits, were adopted. It was agreed that the proposal for unmarried employees with no domestic partners warranted further analysis.

An estimated 2 percent of the UCRP membership with same-sex domestic partners, and 6 percent of the UCRP membership with opposite-sex domestic partners, would qualify for the new survivor income benefits.

The combined benefits approved will require a total one-time cost to the UC Retirement Plan of approximately $139 million and an annual cost of $7 million. These costs will be covered by the assets of the retirement plan.

The new benefits will be effective July 1 for eligible UCRP members; they will not apply to UCRP retired members with retirement dates of June 30, 2002, or earlier. Where appropriate, these benefits are subject to collective bargaining agreements.

As of Oct. 31, 2001, approximately 950 employees with same-sex domestic partners were participating in UC medical, vision and dental plans. UC employs more than 160,000 people systemwide.


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Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
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