On February 25, 2015, the United States Department of Labor amended the Family and Medical Leave Act to redefine ‘spouse’ according to the law of the state where the employee married. The DOL final rule provides same-sex spouses with FMLA coverage, regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legally recognized where the employee resides, as long as it is lawful where the marriage occurred. The new law becomes effective March 27, 2015.

The 12-week FMLA leave entitlement for an employee to care for a spouse with a serious health condition will extend to all lawfully married same-sex spouses. Employers should become aware of the new definition of ‘spouse,’ especially those in states that do not allow same-sex marriage. Employers should also revise their employee handbook FMLA policies to ensure that their definition of ‘spouse’ complies with current law.