In my experience, employer compliance and proper administration of a law or regulation often depends on one word or phrase. (i.e. as my New York clients know, a meal break isn’t a meal break unless it is “uninterrupted.”) The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is no exception. Today, the word of the day is “spouse.” On Friday, June 27, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, regarding the definition of “spouse” as it applies to the FMLA. As proposed, the definition of “spouse” would be broadened to include the majority of same-sex married couples.
The proposed rule changes are tied directly to the 2013 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor. For the purposes of federal law, Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), defined “marriage” as being “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The Court found this definition to be unconstitutional. Prior to the Windsor decision,