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:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


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