DOL Amends Definition of ‘Spouse’ Under FMLA to Encompass Employees in Same-Sex Marriages

From now on employers will have to grant requests for leave  under the Family and Medical Leave Act to employees in same-sex marriages to care for their ill spouses, on the same basis as they would grant leave to opposite-sex married couples, regardless of what state the couple live in.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that is changing the definition of “spouse” under the FMLA to include  a legally married same-sex spouse, even if the state doesn’t recognize their marriage. This is known as the “state of celebration” rule.

“With our action today, we extend that promise so that no matter who you love, you will receive the same rights and protections as everyone else,” said Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez. “All eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, can now deal with a serious medical and family situation like all families — without the threat of job loss.”

The decision isn’t really a surprise, since DOL had already adopted this rule for same-sex couples that participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Still it’s a welcome evolution in FMLA regulations and is yet another indication of the acceptance of same-sex marriage under American law.

Here’s the DOL announcement.

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