Policy: Labor

Labor Dept.: Family and Medical Leave Act extends to same-sex couples

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In a directive announced Friday to Labor Department employees, Secretary Thomas Perez said the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in US v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, means that the federal family leave law will now officially extend to gay couples.

As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Mr. Perez said the guidance on the Family and Medical Leave Act is “one of many steps” the Labor Department will take over the coming months to implement the high-court decision. He said he has directed heads of agencies within the department “to look for every opportunity to ensure that we are implementing this decision in a way that provides the maximum protection for workers and their families.”

Employment lawyers have said for weeks that the Supreme Court ruling automatically makes same-sex couples eligible for leave to care for their spouse under the FMLA—as long as they live in Washington, D.C., or one of the 13 states that recognize gay marriage.

Still, gay-rights advocates have been pressing for explicit guidance so there would be no doubt when employees ask employers for time off to care for a spouse. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act entitles eligible workers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons for 12 weeks in a 12-month period while continuing group-health-insurance coverage.

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