DOL Amends FMLA Definition of Spouse to Include Same-Sex MarriagesThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced its final rule amending the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to expand the definition of “spouse” to include same-sex married couples. This new rule will go into effect on March 27, 2015 and covers:

  • Employees in a same-sex marriage who were married in one of the 37 states or the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal, regardless of where they currently live.
  • Employees in a same-sex marriage who were married overseas in a jurisdiction recognizing same-sex marriage.
  • Employees in a same-sex common law marriage who were married in a state that recognizes common law marriages.

The final rule moves the definition of spouse under the FMLA from a “state of residence” rule to a “place of celebration” rule, which allows all legally married couples to have consistent federal FMLA rights regardless of where they reside. It does not apply to domestic partnerships or civil unions.

Under the FMLA, employees are entitled to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a one-year period without jeopardizing their employment status or benefits for the birth or adoption of a child; to care for a spouse, parent or child with a serious medical condition; or if they are unable to work because of their own serious health condition.

Family members of veterans or current servicemembers are also eligible for military caregiver leave under the FMLA for up to 26 weeks if they are a spouse, child, parent or next of kin of a servicemember with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty.

The final rule complies with the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

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