Feb 24, 2015

Department of Labor to Issue Rule Revising the Definition of “Spouse” Under the Family and Medical Leave Act

Covered employers under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) should prepare for a new Department of Labor (“DOL”) rule that will expand FMLA eligibility to care for a spouse or family member to individuals in legal same-sex marriages.  On February 25, 2015, the DOL will issue the Final Rule (which will become effective on March 27, 2015), and it will apply to every legally married couple, regardless of whether their state recognizes same-sex marriages.  The rule amends FMLA regulations defining “spouse,” and FMLA protections will apply to a married individual if the marriage was legal in the state where it was entered into, also known as “the place of celebration.”

The DOL updated its definition of “spouse” to mirror the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act provision that limited the interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to opposite-sex marriages.  The expanded definition will also apply to individuals who legally entered into same-sex marriages outside of the United States, if they could have been entered into in at least one state.

If you have any questions about any of the issues discussed in this alert, please contact your Labor and Employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.

This client alert is intended to inform clients and other interested parties about legal matters of current interest and is not intended as legal advice.

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