On Friday October 17, same sex marriages became legal in Arizona. What are the changes that Arizona employers and their HR professionals need to be aware of?

1. The definition of spouse in employee manuals and handbooks. If a generic definition, such as “spouse” is used, there should not be a need to update. However, if a specific definition was used such as “wife” or “husband” the employee manual may need to be revised.

2. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) now covers same sex spouses. Accordingly, FMLA policy and notices may require modification. For private employers, FMLA still does not cover domestic partners, only married couples, and FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees.

3. Insurance coverage needs to be offered to all qualifying employees and dependents.This includes all legally married couples.The marriage will be a qualifying life event and will trigger an open enrollment.  Insurance carriers may require proof of marriage.

4. Federal and state tax forms may be updated to reflect the same sex couple’s new filing status.

5. Beneficiary forms for pension plans and life insurance may need to be changed to note “spouse” designation rather than “other”. Pension plan records need to be updated to show status as married and any authorization that require spousal consent will need the new spouse’s signature.

6. Any benefit that the company extends to heterosexual married couples should be extended to same-sex married couples.

In summary, with the advent of lawful same sex marriages, every person involved in HR should take a careful look at how this change affects your policies. If legal assistance is needed to review policies, our employment lawyers would be glad to help.


Kraig J. Marton heads the employment law department at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg & Wilk.  He assists employers and employees in complying with the many laws affecting employers. He also assists health professionals and others with issues related to medical marijuana.  He can be reached at 602 248 1017 or kjm@jaburgwilk.com.