Same-Sex Marriage and the FMLA in Missouri

Missouri is one of the most recent states to face challenges brought against its prohibition on same-sex marriages.  While so far these decisions have come down in favor of same-sex marriage, the multiple suits, appeals, and decisions have created confusion about when and where a same-sex marriage may be recognized in Missouri.  There likely won’t be a complete answer until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the matter (which may happen before summer gets here).  Nonetheless federal agencies are taking the opportunity to expand right previously only provided to opposite-sex partnerships and the Department of Labor has done just that with the Family Medical Leave Act.  Hit the jump for all the details…The U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for implementing the Family Medical Leave Act.  It serves this role by creating regulations that explain how the broad terms of the FMLA will be applied.  The DOL just completed revising the regulations and a new protection for same-sex spouses will go into effect on March 27, 2015.

Those who have read my coverage of the FMLA previously (and that is just a sampling, I sure do love talking about the FMLA!), will be aware that it has always provided leave to care for the serious health condition of an individual’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition.  The current non-revised FMLA regulation defines a spouse as a “husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides.”  This residence requirement essentially meant that any same-sex spouses living in a state that did not recognize same-sex marriage were ineligible for FMLA leave to care for their spouse.

The new regulation moves away from the state of residence and instead focuses on the “place of celebration.”  Therefore, as long as the marriage was entered into in a state that provided legal recognition of same-sex marriages, then the “spouse” definition is met for the FMLA regardless of where the parties go.  Additionally, this change will allow same-sex spouses to take FMLA leave for the serious health condition of their spouse’s child (their stepchild) or the same-sex spouse of their parent without having to prove their own relationship with that person.

Until the Missouri cases finish or the Supreme Court rules, same-sex spouses are caught in a state of flux.  The DOL has acted to lower some of that instability by guaranteeing that same-sex partners legally married in one state cannot be denied FMLA rights in another state.  Unfortunately, people who are waiting to be married in Missouri will be out of luck until we have a final ruling on one of the myriad cases.

Missouri NEA members who are facing  their own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a spouse, child, or parent, should contact their UniServ Directors for help.

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Filed under Family Medical Leave Act, Legislation, Missouri

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