VICTORY! New Labor Rule Allows Employees Across the U.S. to Take FMLA Leave to Care for a Same-Sex Spouse

This morning, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued a new rule allowing employees to take unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to care for their same-sex spouse, regardless of where the couple lives. Previously, employees were only eligible to take FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse if they lived in a state that recognized their marriage – meaning couples living in the states that do not recognize same-sex marriages could not access this critical benefit. Today, same-sex couples living in every state are permitted to take FMLA leave to care for one another, as long as their marriage was valid in the state where it was celebrated.

The Family and Medical Leave Act is the first and only federal law created to help American workers balance the demands of both their work and family. Under the law, employers with 50 or more employees are required to grant workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. Since its passage in 1993, FMLA leave has been used by workers more than 200 million times – but was not fully accessible to LGBTQ workers until today.

By finalizing this broad and inclusive new rule, the Department of Labor takes a critical step toward ensuring that all LGBTQ workers and their spouses can access the care and protection they need when injury or sickness strikes. The new rule also moves the federal government closer to a full and inclusive implementation of the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision striking down the restrictive federal definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act. Today’s new rule means that same-sex married couples will no longer have to make the impossible choice between the economic security of their family and providing essential care to a spouse in need.

Click here to find out more about the rule and to read our FAQs on FMLA leave.

You can read the Department of Labor’s announcement of the new rule, including the text of the rule, here.

We also invite you to share your story about accessing FMLA leave with us here.