Same-sex spouses of federal workers officially included in FMLA

On April 8, the Office of Personnel Management officially published the final rule that allows gay and lesbian federal workers in Wisconsin and around the country to take time off to care for spouses when they are ill. The rule changes the statutory language in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to the rule, the definition of “spouse” will officially be updated to include same-sex spouses on May 9. The new wording will bring the FMLA current with an October 2013 OPM-issued guidance to federal agencies allowing workers to take time off to care for same-sex spouses. The guidance was issued after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013. That statute classified marriage as between a man and a woman and barred gay and lesbian spouses of current and retired federal workers from getting the same benefits offered to opposite-sex spouses of federal employees.

Since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, OPM has issued several guidance reminders to federal employees, keeping them updated on their benefits eligibility. In addition to sick leave benefits, legally married same-sex spouses are able to be covered under the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program and enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. They also now have access to federal long-term care coverage, flexible spending accounts and retirement benefits.

Wisconsin employees who feel that they have been wrongfully denied their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act may want to discuss their situation with an employment law attorney. There are some fairly complex rules regarding coverage and eligibility, and an attorney will review the matter before determining how to proceed.

Source: Government Executive, “It’s Official: Family and Medical Leave Act Now Includes Spouses of Gay Feds,” Kellie Lunney, April 8, 2016

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