NY Court Supports Workers Comp Domestic Partner Ruling

March 24, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A New York state appeals court has upheld a workers compensation law that excludes death benefits for domestic partners.

A report in Business Insurance said that the ruling came in a case involving a man who had applied for death benefits as the 21-year domestic partner of a man who died in November 2001 while working as an American Airlines flight attendant. According to the report, the two owned a home together, jointly held bank accounts and designated each other as executors and beneficiaries in legal documents.

Appeals judges agreed with the July 2003 ruling by New York’s Workers Compensation Board that the man was not entitled to death benefits because he did not meet the definition of a “surviving spouse,” which applies only to a spouse in a legally valid marriage, Business Insurance reported.

The court ruled that “permitting only legal spouses to receive workers’ compensation death benefits is rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in providing for the efficient, swift, and consistent processing and payment of such benefits.” A law New York legislators passed to provide workers comp death benefits to survivors of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks only applies to that incident, the appeals court said.