Labor to expand family leave benefits to gay workers

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is expected to announce on Wednesday a reinterpretation of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act that will allow gay employees working for large employers -- including the federal government -- to take leave to care for their partner's children.

According to the Associated Press and other news outlets, Solis will announce the new interpretation of the existing law also will apply to other nontraditional families like co-habitating heterosexual couples or grandparents with guardianship of their grandchildren.

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides workers with 12 weeks of unpaid leave for situations like the birth or adoption of a child; a seriously ill child, spouse or parent; or the employees' own serious health condition.

According to Federal GLOBE, a group representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered federal employees, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman) prevents them from being eligible for leave under FMLA if their domestic partner is sick or becomes a parent.

A GLOBE issue paper stated that, prior to the FLMA, agencies had "a great deal of discretion" in deciding whether to approve leave when an employee had an illness or a sick relative.

"FMLA changed that by entitling employees to unpaid leave to handle certain family situations, including becoming an adoptive or foster parent," the paper noted. "The act also provided employees with the opportunity to change unpaid leave to paid leave if circumstances warranted. However, this act also resulted in a narrow definition of family."

While OPM has issued regulations that more broadly define family members to include "any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship," they do not fall under FMLA's mandatory approval of leave, according to GLOBE.

The organization's position is clear, and is in line with the announcement expected tomorrow: "The FMLA should be amended to ensure that employees are able to take the leave necessary to take care of their domestic partners, if that domestic partner contracts a serious health condition, or becomes an adoptive or foster parent."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.