DOL Issues Final Rule Expanding Definition of Spouse to Cover Legal Same-Sex Marriages Under FMLA

The time for growth, change, and advancement is here. Are you ready?

A couple of weeks ago on February 25, 2015, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Final Rule revising the regulatory definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). This Final Rule will officially take effect March 27, 2015, and allows employees to take FMLA leave to care for their same-sex spouses, regardless of where the employee resides or works.

The revision was not a huge surprise in light of the 2013 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, which ruled that key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were unconstitutional.

At the time of the Windsor case, the Obama Administration mentioned that the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) would be one of several federal level laws that would be impacted by the recent Court’s ruling, and now that time has come.

Goodbye, “State of Residence”… Hello, “Place of Celebration!”

Under the Department of Labor’s rule change, any eligible employee who is in a legal same-sex marriage may take federal FMLA leave to care for his or her spouse regardless of the same-sex marriage laws enforced in the state where the employee resides. In the Department of Labor’s Press Release, the new provision is referred to as a “place of celebration” rule.

Simply, FMLA eligibility is now based on the laws of the state or country where the couple entered into the marriage, or the “place of celebration” rather than on the laws of the state where the couple resides, which prior to the rule change was referred to as the “state of residence” rule.
The change to the definition of “spouse” now allows eligible employees, regardless of state of residence, to:

• Take FMLA leave to care for their legal spouse with a serious health condition,
• Take exigency leave due to their legal spouse’s covered military service, and
• Take military caregiver leave for their legal spouse.

Strategic synchronicity can all too easily be overlooked in our current, fast-paced business world of hurried tweets, posts, emails, and mobile communication. But a couple of weeks ago on February 23, 2015, Thomas Perez, the Secretary of Labor, took the opportunity to not only announce the DOL’s Final Rule revision but to also share the poignant way in which the new definition of “spouse” under the FMLA was a personal victory for his family via social media. Check out his lovely blog post!

Our modern world of perpetual change and adaptation makes it more important than ever to remain open minded and flexible in regards to the latest trends, apps, games, mobile technologies, software systems/programs, best business practices, and human interaction and communication, both face-to-face and through social media. Thomas Perez’s blog post provided us all with the perfect example of just how important it is to always make a powerful effort to continue to grow and remain relevant in this time of revolving technology.

At Qcera we believe we are successful because we create and appreciate inspiring solutions that we ourselves want to use and embrace a culture of continuous improvement. We like to do things right and that means constantly evaluating our efficiency and effectiveness. The way we see it, the better we are, the better we can be for you. After all, how can we help you adapt during a time of change if we aren’t setting an example and adapting ourselves? So, we gathered our team and had a very successful think-tank session. Although we can’t reveal all our exciting new ideas right now, we recognize that you’re going to need all the best resources to quickly acclimate your employees to the revisions of the regulatory definition of “spouse” under the FMLA. March 27, 2015, when the Final Rule will take effect, is quickly approaching, so we’ve decided that our first adaptation will be posting more articles and information surrounding leave of absence, chock full of info that will help you streamline the entire human capital management process and plan for the recent changes and resulting sense of urgency you’re probably feeling. Our articles and information on will keep you up to date on any new developments, software updates, useful press releases, and articles that explain where and how to start updating all your company documents, along with best practices for leave management. Sound like something you might find helpful during these days of change and revision? Think of our new approach as a sign of growth… as our own symbolic “state of celebration” where we can witness change and progress together, stay informed, and maybe even let loose and have some fun and laugh from time to time.