HRC Blog

Department of Labor Addresses DOMA Decision’s Impact on Family and Medical Leave Act

department of labor sealFor married same-sex couples in marriage equality states, there is now clear government guidance that workers can take family leave to care for a spouse.  Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for their own serious medical needs or to care for a family member –including a spouse— without getting fired.  However, because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers did not have access to this critical benefit to care for a same-sex spouse.  As a result, many LGBT workers were forced to choose between keeping their job and caring for a sick partner.

Today, in guidance published on its blog, the Department of Labor (DOL) confirms that, as a result of the invalidation of DOMA by the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, many LGBT workers will no longer be faced by this dilemma.  This guidance clarifies that for purposes of FMLA workers can take the time they need to care for a same-sex spouse if their marriage is recognized by the state where they live.

This welcome guidance is only the first step.  We urge the Department to take additional action to ensure that the every legally married same-sex couple’s marriage is recognized.  Specifically, we encourage the adoption of a state of celebration standard that will look to the state where the couple married, rather than where they live, to determine eligibility for this benefit.  We will continue to work with the Department of Labor as it implements this guidance and will encourage all necessary action to ensure a broad and fair implementation of this important decision.  To view today’s guidance visit: http://social.dol.gov/blog/modern-families-and-worker-protections/

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