Department of Labor Extends Family Medical Leave Act Coverage to Same-Sex, Non-Traditional Parents

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On June 22, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a clarification of definitions under Section 101(12) of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) designed to ensure all employees who care for children are eligible for parental rights to leave under the Act—even when the employee lacks a legal or biological relationship to the child. The change requires employers to provide FMLA leave to employees caring for children who were previously uncovered by the Act, particularly gay and lesbian parents and "non-traditional" parents who care for children but are not those children's legal stepparents or guardians. The change is a clarification from the Department about its new interpretation of the FMLA, rather than a statutory or regulatory change to the law. Nevertheless, all employers should take note of the Department's new guidelines with an eye towards compliance.

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