FMLA’s definition of “spouse” updated to include those in legal, same-sex marriages


In follow up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced that employees in legal, same-sex marriages will now have the same right to protected Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave as those in opposite-sex marriages.

Under the FMLA, an eligible employee working for a covered employer may take up to 12 or 26 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for certain specified reasons. This includes leave to care for a spouse with a serious health condition. The term “spouse” previously did not include same-sex spouses if the employee resided in a state that did not recognize the legality of such marriages. Under this new rule, all legally married couples have consistent FMLA rights, regardless of whether they currently reside in a state recognizing same-sex marriages.

This ruling also has an impact on the children of same-sex marriages. Specifically, an eligible employee may now take FMLA leave to care for a stepchild if that child is the child of the employee’s same-sex spouse. Further, an eligible employee may take FMLA leave to care for a stepparent who is the same-sex spouse of that employee’s parent.

This ruling goes into effect March 27, 2015. For more information, click here.

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