DOL revises FMLA definition of spouse

DOL revises FMLA definition of spouse

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Benefit Bulletins

A new rule entitles all workers in legal, same-sex marriages to protected job leave to care for a spouse with a serious health condition.

Previously, spousal care leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was limited to opposite-sex couples or to same-sex couples living in states where gay marriage is legal.

Effective March 27, 2015, eligible employees may take FMLA leave for spousal care, regardless of state residence.

The U.S. Labor Department revision to the FMLA is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor.

The ruling struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage.

Under the new rule, eligibility for federal FMLA protections is based on the law of the place where the marriage occurred. The “place of celebration” provision allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent family leave rights, regardless of state law.