All Legally Married Same-Sex Couples Now Covered Under FMLA

Employment Law

All Legally Married Same-Sex Couples Now Covered Under FMLA

Mar 24, 2015 | Employment Law

Effective March 27, 2015, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, will extend coverage to all legally married same-sex couples to take FMLA leave to provide care for their spouse. FMLA leave entitles eligible employees, as defined by the statute, to take unpaid leave for a “qualifying event” for a period of up to 12 weeks. In addition to serious health conditions of the employee, qualifying events include the care of a spouse or child with a serious health condition and leave due to a spouse’s covered military service.

Previously, the definition of “spouse” under FMLA was defined by looking at the state law where the employee resided. In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor and President’s Obama’s directive thereafter, the Department of Labor reviewed the directive as it applied to FMLA. On February 25, 2015, the DOL issued a Final Rule to revise this statutory definition to encompass legally married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live or work. Specifically, the definition is no longer focused on an employee’s “state of residence” but instead the “place of celebration,” which is the location where the marriage was entered into.

The new rule will also extend coverage to allow eligible employees to take FMLA leave to care for the child(ren) or parent(s) of the employee’s same-sex spouse. The rule does not extend coverage to civil unions, whether between a man and woman or a same-sex couple. Companies must educate their HR managers and ensure employee policies, procedures and notices are updated to comply with this expanded definition of “spouse.” Additional information is available at the DOL website.

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