New definition of “Spouse” for FMLA
Earlier today, the Department of Labor announced that the definition of “Spouse” under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is changing, effective March 27, 2015. The current definition of “Spouse” looks to the place of residence – i.e., where an employee lives – in determining whether an employee is married. The new definition of “Spouse” looks to the place of celebration – i.e., where an employee’s marriage occurred – in determining whether an employee is married.
According to the DOL website, the major features of the new DOL rule are:
- The Department has moved from a “state of residence” rule to a “place of celebration” rule for the definition of spouse under the FMLA regulations. The Final Rule changes the regulatory definition of spouse in 29 CFR §§ 825.102 and 825.122(b) to look to the law of the place in which the marriage was entered into, as opposed to the law of the state in which the employee resides. A place of celebration rule allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, or married under common law, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of where they live.
- The Final Rule’s definition of spouse expressly includes individuals in lawfully recognized same-sex and common law marriages and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the United States if they could have been entered into in at least one state.