U.S. Department of Labor Updates FMLA’s Definition of Spouse

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued the following release today:

“Workers in legal, same-sex marriages, regardless of where 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 in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor. That ruling struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act 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.

“The effective date for the rule is March 27, 2015.”

The DOL will issue a Final Rule on February 25, 2015. Additional information is available through the agency’s website.