FMLA spouseUS Labor Department updates Family and Medical Leave Act’s definition of spouse 

Effective March 27, 2015, workers in legal, same-sex marriages, regardless of the state in which they live, will now have the same rights as those in opposite-sex marriages to federal job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a spouse with a serious health condition. The U.S. Labor Department announced a rule change to the FMLA today (February 23, 2015) in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor. That ruling struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provision that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.

The rule change updates the FMLA regulatory definition of “spouse” so that an eligible employee in a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take FMLA leave for his or her spouse regardless of the state in which the employee resides. Previously, the regulatory definition of “spouse” did not include same-sex spouses if an employee resided in a state that did not recognize the employee’s same-sex marriage. Under the new rule, eligibility for federal FMLA protections is based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into. This “place of celebration” provision allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages.

Employers must hurry  to update policy and procedure manuals to reflect the new requirements. Many employers have been observing this definition of a “spouse” for months, if not years. However, others may not even have written policies and procedures. Don’t be caught ‘doing it wrong’. Get compliant today!

For additional information on the FMLA revisions, including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/.

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