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FMLA leave for spouses of gay federal employees

Gay federal employees in Pennsylvania can now officially take family medical leave to take care of their spouses when their spouses are ill. The change occurred on April 8 when the Office of Personnel Management published the final rule for the law, updating the definition of "spouse" to include those who are in same-sex marriages.

The Office of Personnel Management is the agency responsible for regulating the Family and Medical Leave Act for federal employers and employees. Within the federal system, gay spouses have already been allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave following the Supreme Court's June 2013 decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Previously, however, employees only took leave because of guidance provided by the Office of Personnel Management in 2013.

The statutory language change finalizes the lawful ability to take FMLA for gay married federal employees. FMLA leave for non-federal employers and employees is regulated by the Labor Department. That agency issued its final rule updating the statutory language for non-federal companies in February 2015 to include same-sex spouses in the statutory definitions under the rule.

The FMLA provides important protections for workers who are covered under the law's provisions. Workers are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or for close family members when they are ill. When workers take FMLA leave, their employers are supposed to keep their jobs available so that they can return to work in the same position. In the event an employer denies leave, refuses to allow the employee to return from leave, terminates the employee or otherwise retaliates against the employee for taking FMLA leave, the employee may want to meet with an attorney to learn about the remedies that may be available.

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