OPM Revises FMLA Regulations Definition of Spouse to Include Same-Sex Couples

HRC staff

Last week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a final rule revising the definition of spouse in its regulations on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include same-sex couples.

Under the FMLA, employers are required to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of consecutive, or in some circumstances intermittent, unpaid sick leave. FMLA was designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons.

In February of 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final regulation on the definition of spouse under Title I of FMLA, which covered non-federal employees and certain federal employees not covered under Title II. DOL’s final regulation did not apply to Title II of FMLA, which covered most federal employees, as OPM administers regulations for Title II of FMLA.

OPM’s revised definition of spouse under Title II of FMLA, replaced unconstitutional language from the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), allowing federal employees with same-sex spouses to use FMLA leave in the same manner as federal employees with opposite-sex spouses. Both DOL’s and OPM’s final rules reflect the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional.

HRC has long supported expanding FMLA to include same-sex couples and applauds OPM’s important rule change.


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