Definition of "Spouse" revised under the FMLA

Did You Know....

The United States Department of Labor updated the Family and Medical Leave Act’s definition of spouse?


Previously, FMLA rights were available to same-sex married couples, but only if they resided in a state that recognized same-sex marriages, even if they were legally married in another state.  The amended definition now allows all legally married same-sex couples to take job-protected FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of the state in which they reside. 

The Final Rule is effective on March 27, 2015.

For the purposes of the FMLA, the definition of spouse is now a husband or wife as defined or recognized in the state where the individual was married, and specifically includes individuals in same-sex and common law marriages. The Final Rule also defines spouse to include a husband or wife in a marriage that was validly entered into outside of the United States if it could have been entered into in at least one state.

This new definition of “spouse” means that eligible employees will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their lawfully wed same-sex spouse when:

  • caring for their same-sex spouse with a serious health condition;
  • taking qualifying exigency leave due to their same-sex spouse’s covered military service; or
  • taking military caregiver leave for their same-sex spouse.

Covered employers should review and update their FMLA policy, as well as all FMLA-related forms and notices by March 27, 2015 to comply with the new regulation.

If you have questions or need assistance updating your FMLA policy and/or forms and notices, contact your HR One Consultant or call HR One's Human Resource Helpline at 1.800.457.8829.