DEAR DAWG: JOE AND BOB SAY THEY ARE MARRIED. TO EACH OTHER. BOB WORKS FOR US, AND WANTS FMLA LEAVE. WHAT DO WE DO?
This is just about to change. On February 25th of this year the Department of Labor issued a new rule, re-defining the term “spouse” for purposes of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Background: in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The case involved a same sex couple who were legally married under the laws of Canada. The issue was whether or not they were entitled to be treated as a married couple under U.S. federal law. The Court held that they were.
In response to that, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that couples in a same sex marriage would be recognized as spouses if they resided in a state that recognized a same sex marriage. Thus, Texas school districts would not be required to grant benefits to a same sex couple, since Texas does not recognize same sex marriages.
But on February 25th of this year, the Department of Labor announced a change to this rule. Henceforth, the validity of the marriage will be determined by where it occurred, rather than where the couple lives. The DOL describes this as a change from a “state of residence” rule to a “place of celebration” rule.
Does this matter in Texas? Sure it does. Even though Texas does not recognize same sex marriages (a matter currently the subject of spirited litigation), other states do. Most states do, as do many other countries. So if Joe and Bob were lawfully married in a state where such marriages are permitted, and Bob otherwise qualifies for FMLA benefits, he would be entitled to them. That’s as of March 27, 2015, when the new rule goes into effect. You can learn more about this at www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/factsheet.htm.
DAWG BONE: DYLAN HAD IT RIGHT. THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’.