Yet Another Change to the Family Leave Definition of Spouse

June, 2014

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a proposed rule change to the definition of a “spouse” for purposes of FMLA. Under the proposed rule, a spouse would include same-sex marriages, even in states that have banned same-sex marriage.

The previous rule asked employers to look to whether the state in which the employee resides recognizes same-sex marriages. If the state did, the same-sex spouse would be a spouse for federal purposes. If the state did not, the same-sex spouse would not be a spouse for federal purposes. This rule was unnecessarily complicated and created strange scenarios.

This rule doesn’t change much in Oregon, as the state recently set a policy of recognizing out-of-state marriages, and the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages was recently struck down. However, for organizations operating in other states that do not recognize same-sex marriages, this new rule will change the way you administer FMLA. Now, any employee who needs time off for a same-sex spouse’s serious health condition or qualifying exigency must be granted the time under FMLA, so long as the marriage was lawfully performed in a state that does allow same-sex marriages.

For questions about how this recent rule change affects your family leave practices, contact Cascade today.


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