DOL Extends FMLA Benefits to Same-Sex Married Couples


Same-sex married couples now are eligible for the spousal leave provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), according to Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez. This pronouncement comes in light of the Supreme Court’s recent landmark decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denied federal benefits to legally married gay couples.

In an email to department staff on August 9, 2013, Perez stated that “the Department of Labor [has] updated several guidance documents … to affirm the availability of spousal leave based on same-sex marriages under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).” Additionally, the Department of Labor will be taking further steps in the near future to implement the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor. According to Perez, the DOL will “look for every opportunity” to implement the Supreme Court’s decision “in a way that provides the maximum protection for workers and their families.”

The DOL has not yet addressed whether FMLA benefits would extend to same-sex married couples living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Another federal agency, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, has stated that it will extend certain benefits to federal employees in same-sex marriages, regardless of their state of residency. It is likely that the Department of Labor will follow suit in a subsequent announcement. But until then, FMLA coverage only applies to same-sex couples living in Washington, D.C., and the 13 states that recognize gay marriage.