Last Friday, the Department of Labor announced a series of changes to federal regulations intended to expand federal benefits to same-sex spouses. Among the changes are proposed revisions to the definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the FMLA, qualifying employees are entitled to take job-protected leave for a serious health condition affecting their spouse.
The proposed change would expand the FMLA’s definition of spouse to cover all legally married persons, regardless of their current state of residence. Current FMLA interpretations only extend this definition to same-sex spouses if they live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages. The new rule would change this “state of residence” standard to a “state of celebration” one, requiring employers in states that do not allow same-sex marriages to grant FMLA rights to spouses legally married in other states.
These changes follow the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the Defense of Marriage Act in its Windsor decision. DOL is accepting comments on the proposed rule for 45 days after its publication in the Federal Register.