DOL Updates FMLA's Definition "Spouse" to Include Same-Sex Unions

Volume 14, Issue 3
March 3, 2015

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, where the high court held that spouses in same-sex unions must be treated as spouses under federal law, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule last week updating the definition of "spouse" in its Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations to provide employees in legal, same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, with the same FMLA leave rights as those in opposite-sex marriages.

Previously, the DOL's FMLA regulatory definition of "spouse" did not include same-sex spouses if an employee resided in a state that did not recognize the employee's same-sex marriage. Under the new rule, eligibility for FMLA leave and other protections is based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered. This "place of celebration" provision allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of whether or not the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages. The effective date of the new rule is March 27, 2015.

For additional information on the FMLA regulation revisions, including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions, click here.

If you have any questions about this legal development or would like assistance in making any necessary changes to your FMLA policies and procedures, please do not hesitate to call the KZA attorney with whom you regularly work or call our office at (702) 259-8640.

KZA Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.