Labor Department: Same Sex Spouses Entitled to FMLA Leave

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that it has updated the definition of “spouse” for purposes of the Family Medical Leave Act. Under the new definition, employees who enter legally valid same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouses even if their home states do not recognize their marriages (assuming all other eligibility requirements are met). For example, if an employee who resides in Georgia, which does not recognize same-sex marriages, marries his or her same-sex partner in Massachusetts, which does recognize same sex marriage, that employee will now be permitted to use FMLA leave to care for his or her same-sex spouse with a serious health condition. Lisa Schmid and Sarah Riskin, attorneys with Nilan Johnson & Lewis, say that in light of the change, employers should review their FMLA policies and update the definition of “spouse” to include a spouse in a legally valid same-sex marriage. The change takes effect March 27, 2015.  To speak with Lisa Schmid or Sarah Riskin about this important new development, or about FMLA questions in general, contact Jeff Trauring at 651.789.1268.

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