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Labor Department extends FMLA benefits to same-sex couples

As a part of the ongoing efforts to fully implement the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Labor Department has recently announced updates to their policies. Among these updates includes a change in the way that the Family Medical Leave Act is administered.

Under DOMA, same-sex couples were specifically excluded from the job-protected leave that the Family Medical Leave Act entitles employees to. This meant that while a person in a same-sex marriage could take time off to care for a themselves, a child, or a parent, they would not be eligible for FMLA benefits if their spouse became ill. Now, under the Supreme Court decision that found that specific exclusion unconstitutional, the Department of Labor is changing its policies to make sure that someone in a same-sex marriage can take time off to care for their spouse.

The change opens up FMLA benefits to couples who have legally married in one of the states or jurisdictions that has specifically authorized it.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor said that the agency is examining its policies to look for any other areas where the DOMA decision should be applied to extend benefits and protections to same-sex couples. 

FMLA leave is available for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. Employers must keep the employee's job open during that time or be able to return them to an equivalent position when they come back to work. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against people who take FMLA leave, which means that someone cannot be denied a promotional opportunity or paid less because of their leave. 


Source: Bloomberg, "FMLA Protection Extends to Gay Spouses as DOL Updates Policies Following Windsor," Gayle Cinquergrani, Aug. 20, 2013. 

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