The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on June 26 to strike down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a monumental victory for advocates of same-sex marriage. The fall of the DOMA law paves the way for individuals in legally recognized same-sex relationships to receive benefits through Social Security, the tax system, healthcare and other federal benefits, as well as myriad other circumstances in which these couples have not had the same tax and benefits advantages as other married couples. Today, according to the Human Rights Coalition, only 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies currently offer domestic partner healthcare benefits.
President Obama advised Cabinet members to implement the ruling “swiftly and smoothly” and extend federal recognition to same-sex marriages; today, the current of change is just beginning to flow through businesses of all sizes. CPAs are filing amended tax returns. Lawyers are revising wills. And human resources professionals across the country are scrambling to answer questions, examine their own Company’s policies, and meet the needs of same-sex couples within their organizations.
Many such organizations do not have onsite human resources staff available to meet in person with LGBT employees and their families. But with smart, simple video and web conferencing tools, HR professionals have the flexibility and adaptability they need to communicate the impact of this decision in several key ways:
Meet with anyone, anywhere, at anytime
Video conferencing provides the opportunity for personal, virtual meetings at any time. Time zone differences, cumbersome commutes and discordant schedules are no longer a hassle. Employees can meet with HR professionals using secure, cloud-based video conferencing tools and still receive the individual attention and benefits from face-to-face meetings, all with just one click. In addition, PGi’s iMeet provides the additional security option of allowing HR professionals to lock any meeting, so meeting attendees – and only those attendees – can access the meeting. Privacy is critical, and iMeet helps protect it. No interruptions, no unwanted visitors, no “virtual knocks” at the door. Additionally, spouses and other family members can enter iMeet meetings without the hassle of downloading software and can attend using the mobile device of their choice – smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Share files easily and securely
DOMA’s demise brings additional complexities for HR and Payroll professionals. According to James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, there “will be administrative complications…given the overall still-unsettled nature of this.” With DOMA now gone, federal benefits are directly affected, but the effects on state benefits are still very much in question – and in transition. Enterprises operating across the U.S. will need to manage which healthcare and tax benefits apply in which state, and this can get confusing. Rather than discuss options and changes over email asynchronously, collaborating and sharing files real-time can be a key advantage for HR professionals and their external advisors as they cut through the confusion of healthcare benefits and lengthy legalese. When working with employees on decisions and changes they need to make, employees can download files from iMeet, sign any necessary paperwork and re-upload the files within just a few minutes, all securely using cloud-based software.
Schedule real-time training
The aftermath of this decision is not a one-time instance. There are many issues still to be decided. Human resources professionals will need to maintain regular and detailed communications internally with their teams and internal partners such as Payroll as they discuss the implications of DOMA’s demise for affected employees across their organizations. As many questions will undoubtedly arise and answers trickle in, conducting education and updates sessions on the fly can be accomplished real-time, when a quick response is vital. While iMeet is ideal for smaller meetings, when a larger, more formal training is necessary, PGi’s GlobalMeet provides web conferencing for up to 125 attendees, and includes the option to record meetings for absent attendees as well as features like a whiteboard tool and an integrated poll component to ensure greater collaboration within meetings.
The fall of DOMA promises change throughout organizations of all sizes across the U.S. Human resources professionals must be prepared for what comes next from this landmark decision as we support our employees whose benefits, tax, payroll and other perks are changing for the better.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ted Eytan