Administration to extend FMLA rights to all same-sex spouses

leave request formThe Department of Labor on June 20 announced a proposed rule extending FMLA protections to all eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages regardless of where they live. A DOL statement said the proposal would “help ensure that all families will have the flexibility to deal with serious medical and family situations without fearing the threat of job loss.”

The proposed rule comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, in which the court struck down a Defense of Marriage Act provision that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law. Currently, the regulatory definition of “spouse” only applies to same-sex spouses who reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

Under the proposed rule, eligibility for FMLA protections would be based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into, allowing all legally married couples to have consistent federal family leave rights even if the state where they reside does not recognize their marriages.

Read the proposed rule here.

Following a 45-day public comment period that ends in early August, expect the proposed rule to take effect before the end of summer.

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Also on June 20, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a ruling on how the Windsor case affects other federal benefits. Bottom line: In most cases, same-sex married couples receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples.

One key exception: Social Security benefits, which are based on the law in the state in which people live. The White House is urging Congress to change that law.

Background on the Justice Department ruling is here.