Department of Labor Issues Revision To Definition of Spouse Under FMLA

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt
03/05/2015

On February 25, 2015, the Department of Labor issued a Final Rule changing the definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The Final Rule impacts those individuals who entered into legal same-sex marriages in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but now reside in a state that does not.  The prior iteration of the Rule defined “spouse” (29 CFR §§ 825.102 and 825.122(b)) based on the residency of the eligible employee.  The new version looks to the law of the state where the marriage took place.   This provides greater uniformity in the application of FMLA benefits for same-sex couples and also ensures that same-sex marriages, and their attendant benefits, are recognized even if the same-sex couple moves to a new state.  The DOL’s new rule can be read here, and will take effect on March 27, 2015.  Employers and employees should note that the FMLA does not recognize civil unions as marriages and, thus, those couples will not enjoy FMLA rights and protections unless they qualify under another provision.

 

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