October 21, 2009

To Faculty and Staff:

Effective January 1, 2010, the College will reimburse employees who face increased tax liability because they take advantage of Bowdoin’s health benefits for domestic partners.

In 1995 Bowdoin College became one of the first employers in Maine to offer health benefits to domestic partners of the opposite or same gender. In doing so, the College removed barriers to quality health insurance for some members of our faculty and staff and their families. Unfortunately, employees who take advantage of this policy are taxed at a higher rate than their married counterparts who enjoy the same benefits. Federal law precludes employees from paying for a domestic partner’s insurance with pre-tax dollars. In addition, the College portion of insurance payments for the domestic partner is taxed as imputed income.
Several College committees, including the Bowdoin Administrative Staff Steering Committee, the Oversight Committee on Multicultural Affairs, the Oversight Committee on Gender and Sexuality, and the Benefits Advisory Committee, reviewed this inequitable situation and recommended a review of Bowdoin’s domestic partner benefits in order to make benefits affordable equally to all employees. The decision to reimburse affected employees is the result of that deliberate review.
Additional details about this decision and plans for its implementation will be provided in the days ahead. It is important to note that the College is taking this action to remedy a specific inequity on behalf of a group of employees, not because we believe we can or should right every perceived imbalance in Federal law or the tax code. Our intent is to ensure that every employee of Bowdoin College shares in the same level of benefits regardless of their domestic situation, while maintaining Bowdoin’s position as a leading employer in the State of Maine.

Sincerely yours,

Barry Mills