FMLA re-defines spouse to include same-sex couples, others

FMLA re-defines –spouse” to include same-sex couples, others

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has revised the definition of –spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act. As of March 27, it will include same-sex, common law or foreign-celebrated marriage (if valid under any state law). Under the FMLA, eligible employees may take unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a spouse (or certain family members related by marriage) with a serious health condition. The new rule states that the validity of a spousal relationship is based on the law of the place of marriage, not the law where the employee lives or works.

Language in the preamble to the new DOL rule suggests that an eligible employee seeking FMLA leave need only show the existence of a spousal relationship, and that employers may not require proof or documentation. The preamble also appears to presume that employers know the marriage laws from everywhere, meaning that any processing an employer would do on an FMLA request should cover the relevant marriage laws.

Dealers should revise their leave policies to accommodate the new definition of –spouse,” educate employees about the new definition and its potential impact on FMLA leave requests. Dealers should also pay close attention to any state law mandates that vary from the federal law.

Click here for more information on the DOLês final spousal definition rule. With questions, contact NADA Regulatory Affairs at (703) 821-7040 or

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