March 4, 2015

Family and Medical Leave Act Updates (article)

Change in Definition of Spouse for FMLA purposes

On February 25, 2015, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) modified the definition of spouse for the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) purposes, specifically to use the “place of celebration” rather than the “state of residence”.  What this means is, for FMLA purposes, a spouse, whether same or opposite-sex, is entitled to all of the benefits and rights under the law as long as the marriage is legal in the jurisdiction in which it is celebrated, without regard to whether the marriage is legal where the individuals reside.  Previously, the DOL had used the rule of residence, meaning the marriage had to be legal in the state of residence in order to be entitled to FMLA. 


The change made by this regulation becomes effective March 27, 2015. This change also applies to the military family leave provisions of the FMLA relating to qualifying exigency and caregiver leave.  The DOL has established a webpage, together with explanatory material (fact sheet, FAQs, regulation text) relating to this change in definition of spouse: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/index.htm


It is important to note that the change in definition of spouse does not extend FMLA rights and benefits to civil union couples, domestic partnerships or other similar relationships.  If an employer intends to extend FMLA-like rights and benefits to its workforce in these types of relationships, it can do so by its policies and procedures.  The employer would also have to amend its relevant plans to reflect this expanded entitlement.


Revised Model FMLA Forms

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division provides model FMLA forms that can be used by employers to assist in satisfying their notice obligations such as the obligation to provide information to employees of their eligibility, rights and responsibilities under the law, as well as the certification form to report the need for FMLA leave in the event of an employee’s or his/her family member’s serious health condition.  These model FMLA forms expired on February 28, 2015.  However, a new set of forms has been issued with a temporary extension date through March 31, 2015.  While there has not been any change in the content of these forms, employers are encouraged to use these updated versions until further notice:

 The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.

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