DOL Issues Final FMLA Rule that Offers Equal Leave Rights to Same-Sex Spouses

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced its final rule regarding the definition of “spouse” for purposes of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The rule changes the definition of the term “spouse” from one based on an individual’s state of residence to one based on the state in which an individual celebrated a marriage. In practical terms, this change means that if an individual marries in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages,1 that individual will have full access to FMLA rights regardless of where they reside. The final rule will become effective 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. At present, this publication is scheduled for today, February 25, 2015, which means employers must be prepared to meet their heightened leave obligations by March 27th of this year. In the interim, employers may wish to seek legal guidance regarding necessary changes to their handbooks and policies.

Please visit our earlier e-Update regarding this topic for additional information.

1. According to the DOL, “[a]s of February 13, 2015, thirty-two States and the District of Columbia extend the right marry to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).” https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/02/25/2015-03569/definition-of-spouse-under-the-family-and-medical-leave-act