Skip to page content
Wage and Hour Division
Bookmark and Share

Family and Medical Leave Act

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Revise the Definition of “Spouse” Under the FMLA

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Revise the Definition of “Spouse” Under the FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The FMLA also includes certain military family leave provisions.

The Department of Labor has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the definition of spouse under the FMLA in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional.

Major features of the NPRM

  • The Department is proposing to move from a “state of residence” rule to a rule based on where the marriage was entered into (sometimes referred to as “place of celebration”).
  • The proposed definition of spouse expressly references the inclusion of same-sex marriages in addition to common law marriages, and will encompass same-sex marriages entered into abroad that could have been entered into in at least one State.
  • The Department proposes to define spouse as follows:
      Spouse, as defined in the statute, means a husband or wife. For purposes of this definition, husband or wife refers to the other person with whom an individual entered into marriage as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State in which the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside of any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and could have been entered into in at least one State. This definition includes an individual in a same-sex or common law marriage that either (1) was entered into in a State that recognizes such marriages or, (2) if entered into outside of any State, is valid in the place where entered into and could have been entered into in at least one State.

Comment Period

The NPRM published on June 27, 2014 (79 FR 36445) in the Federal Register and interested parties are invited to submit written comments on the proposed rule at www.regulations.gov. Comments must be received on or before August 11, 2014. Only comments received during the comment period identified in the Federal Register published version of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be considered part of the rulemaking record.


Additional Information on the NPRM

FMLA Resources