WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced today a proposed rule extending the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act to all eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages regardless of where they live. 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. Secretary Perez is proposing this rule in light of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, in which the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act provision that interpreted "marriage" and "spouse" to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.
The FMLA, enacted in 1993, entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Employees are, for example, entitled to take FMLA leave to care for a spouse who has a serious health condition. Millions of workers and their families have benefited since the FMLA's provisions became effective and even more American families would be made secure as a result of the proposed rule.
"The basic promise of the FMLA is that no one should have to choose between succeeding at work and being a loving family caregiver," said Secretary Perez. "Under the proposed revisions, the FMLA will be applied to all families equally, enabling individuals in same-sex marriages to fully exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities to their families."
The proposed rule would change the FMLA regulatory definition of "spouse" so that an eligible employee in a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take FMLA leave for his or her spouse or family member regardless of the state in which the employee resides. 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, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages.
Following the Windsor decision, noting that it was "a victory... for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve," President Obama directed the Attorney General to work with the Cabinet to review federal statutes to ensure the decision, including its implications for federal benefits and obligations, is implemented.
For additional information on the FMLA, including information and fact sheets on the proposed revisions, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/nprm-spouse. The department encourages all interested parties to view the proposed rule and submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov. The regulation identification number is 1235-AA09. Comments must be received within 45 days following publication in the Federal Register.