What is the law regarding married co-workers and insurance?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What is the law regarding married co-workers and insurance?

My husband and I both work full-time for the same organization. We were told last Tuesday that we are now being required to enroll as eligible employee and dependent/spouse rather than being allowed to enroll on our own individual plans as we have in the past both of us being full-time, eligible employees. Is this legal or, more accurately, is it discriminatory as we would both be able to enroll individually in our employer-provided group health plan were we not married?

Asked on December 21, 2017 under Insurance Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It is legal. While in your state, an employer may not discriminate against an employee for being married to a co-worker, this would not constitute actionable discrimination for two reasons:
1) It would be discrimination to treat you *worse* than employees not married to co-workers, that's not what's happening here: an employee married to a non-coworker would have to opt for family coverage, too, so you are being treated the same as persons married to non-coworkers.
2) Even if you were being treated somewhat differently than fellow employees not married to co-workers, the law does allow some differential treatment: it only requires a "reasonable accommodation" to your protected category or status. By having to have one of you be on the other's plan, you are getting your health coverage: you are not being denied anything of any value. AND it is likely less expensive for the employer to provide a single family plan than two individual plans. It would not be reasonable for the employer to have to pay extra to provide you the same exact thing (the same health coverage) simply because you have a personal preference to be covered separately.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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