DOL Rolls Out New FMLA Guidance in Wake of High Court’s Marriage Equality Decision

Since the Supreme Court’s June 26th decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, federal agencies have reacted quickly to extend benefits and legal protection to individuals in same-sex marriages.  

Just two days after the decision, the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance confirming that federal employees in same-sex marriages were eligible for benefits and immediately opening enrollment for such benefits.  The Department of Defense has likewise stated that it will be promptly extending benefits to service members in same-sex relationships.  Its proposed plan, which is being reviewed by the Justice Department, would also give service members up to 10 days of leave in order to travel to one of the 13 states where they can legally marry.   The Social Security Administration has also announced that it will be processing benefits claims for same-sex spouses.  It is in the process of developing and implementing new policies and guidance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.  

Most recently, the Department of Labor has taken what Labor Secretary Tom Perez says will be the first of many steps to implement Windsor’s mandate.  On Friday, the DOL announced new FMLA guidance that expands FMLA benefits to same-sex spouses.  The DOL previously extended the FMLA’s childcare leave entitlement to same-sex caretakers, but the recent guidelines will likely cover all FMLA benefits.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Perez outlined the guidelines in a memo to his staff, while praising the Windsor decision as “a historic step toward equality for all American families.”