The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a rule which amended the definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act. This change will become effective on March 27. The amendment changes “spouse” to include couples in same-sex marriages. The marriages must be valid in the place in which they were entered, regardless of where the couple lives.
Before the new rule, “spouse” only included husband or wife, as recognized under the laws of the state in which the employee lives. For example, if a couple legally married in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, but moved to Georgia, where it is not legal, the couple would not be included under the protections of the FMLA before now. Now, as long as the couple legally married in a state in which same-sex marriages are legal, they are protected under the FMLA.
This is an important rule change. The FMLA is a law that allows eligible employees of certain employers to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons without losing their jobs. The employees can also keep their group health insurance under the law. Employees are entitled to 12 work weeks of leave in a 12 month period to care for the birth or adoption of a child or the care of a new baby, to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition, a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job, or a qualified emergency that arises due to the fact that a spouse, child, or parent of the employee is on active duty in the military.
The Department of Labor has announced that this rule change will allow employees in same-sex marriages to care for their spouse, regardless of where they live. The Department of Labor also mentioned that the new rule would make complying with FMLA rules easier on employers who are in multiple states, who will not have to consider where an employee lives and the marriage laws of that state when determining if the employee is eligible for leave.
The new rule has some other features as well. The rule covers employees who entered into same-sex marriages in other countries, as long as the marriage is legal in the country in which it was entered into. In addition, employees in legal same-sex marriages can take FMLA leave to care for his or her stepchild. The new rules also make a couple of changes that affect straight couples as well – employees in common law marriages can now be covered under FMLA, as long as the marriage was valid in a state that recognizes common law marriages.
Legally, employers who are covered under the law must provide FMLA leave to employees who have worked for the employer a certain length of time and a certain number of hours. The employees’ jobs must be protected under the Act. As you may imagine, some employers make FMLA leave difficult for the employee to take. The employer may fire the employee, but claim that the termination had nothing to do with the FMLA leave. The employer may also illegally refuse to allow the employee to take FMLA leave.
If you believe you are wrongfully being denied the FMLA leave to which you are allowed, you should exercise your legal rights. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that no employer should be allowed to get away with refusing to allow employees to take leave to which they are entitled. If you believe your legal rights have been violated, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She can help you get the compensation to which you are entitled, and will provide you with a free consultation on your case. Call to learn more.