Federal FMLA Regulations Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

newspaperThe U.S. Department of Labor today announced changes to the regulations that define a “spouse” for purposes of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  The changes fully implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.  That statute had defined the terms “marriage” and “spouse,” as used in federal law, to refer only to opposite-sex marriages.

Immediately after the Windsor decision, the Department of Labor announced that henceforth, employers would be required to grant FMLA leave to an employee to care for his or her same-sex spouse if the employee resides in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages.

Now the Department has gone a step further, and revised its rules to provide that an employee is entitled to FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse regardless of the law of the employee’s state of residence, provided that the marriage was legal in the place where it was entered into.  Similarly, the child of the same-sex spouse will be recognized as the employee’s step-child for FMLA purposes.

A fact sheet on the new regulation can be found here. It will be published in the Federal Register on February 25, 2015, and will be effective on March 27.