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FMLA now covers care for partner’s, other relative’s children

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employees who care for a domestic partner’s child—or whose partner gives birth or adopts a child—are now eligible to take FMLA leave to care for those children.

The U.S. Department of Labor instituted new rules last week clarifying that any employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship.

The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for loved ones or themselves. The law also allows employees to take time off for the adoption or the birth of a child.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division issued the ruling in an administrator interpretation that essentially clarified the definition of “son or daughter” contained in the original 1993 FMLA legislation.

A DOL statement said, “This action is a victory for many nontraditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.”

The new rule applies regardless of sexual orientation or conventional family ties. That means it covers FMLA leave for extended family members.

For example, an uncle who is caring for his young niece and nephew when their single parent has been called to active military duty is now eligible to take FMLA leave.

And an employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same-sex partner will be able to exercise the right to FMLA leave to bond with that child.

“No one who loves and nurtures a child day-in and day-out should be unable to care for that child when he or she falls ill,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “No one who steps in to parent a child when that child's biological parents are absent or incapacitated should be denied leave by an employer because he or she is not the legal guardian. No one who intends to raise a child should be denied the opportunity to be present when that child is born simply because the state or an employer fails to recognize his or her relationship with the biological parent.”

For more information, visit the Wage and Hour Division’s web site or call its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

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