The U.S. Department of Labor has scheduled announcement that it will issue a Final Rule effective March 27, 2015 expanding the definition of “spouse” for purposes of determining an employee’s entitlement to Family Medical Leave. Specifically, the new rule will define a “spouse” for purposes of FMLA leave in accordance with the law of the state where the marriage was celebrated rather than under the law of the employee’s residence. Thus, a same sex marriage validly entered into under the law of the state where the wedding occurred will be a valid marriage which entitles either spouse to take FMLA leave to care for the other spouse even in states where same sex marriage is not recognized. The announcement with links to the text of the Rule is here.
Employers subject to the federal FMLA should be careful to comply with and to respect this expanded definition of marriage in deciding whether to grant or to deny such leave.