Human Resources News & Insights

Obama OKs FMLA child-care leave for domestic partners

Gay and lesbian workers will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their partners’ sick or newborn children, under a new ruling expected from the U.S. Department of Labor.

According to a New York Times story, the DOL was expected to release an opinion letter affording an employee in a same-sex relationship the ability to take leave to care for the child of his or her partner — even if the partner has not legally adopted the child.

The move is part of the Obama administration’s continuing effort to extend federal employment protections to gay and lesbian employees. Last year, the administration expanded many FMLA privileges to homosexual federal workers.

Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for loved ones suffering from a serious medical condition or the arrival of a newborn child.

The new DOL rule widens employees’ rights to cover the children of gay and lesbian workers.

However, it’s likely employees still won’t be allowed to take FMLA leave to care for a partner or spouse of the same sex. Reason: Federal law does not officially recognize same-sex relationships.

But employers can (and many do) chose to provide more comprehensive benefits than those required by the feds.

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  • Stu

    This is absolutely wonderful. It is about time that all adoptive parents regardless of gender have the same rights as others. I hope this is the beginning of a true change in federal laws to allow full benefits to same sex couples that hetrosexuals have enjoyed for years.

  • Lars

    It is possible that the child is biologically one of the partners and not adopted by the other. I don’t know how the Feds can allow FMLA for an unrelated (not adopted child) when they don’t allow FMLA for the partner to take care of the other. It seems our government should take a stance one way or another and be clear about it. The outcome does not matter to me, but there are too many gray areas in our employment and civic laws already.

  • Teratorn

    Lars asked how “the Feds can allow FMLA for an unrelated (not adopted child) when they don’t allow FMLA for the partner” — the answer is that this change is much broader than LGBTQ issues. ANY person who serves in a parental role to a child is eligible for leave to care for that child, even if they aren’t the biological or adoptive parent. So, for example, if a grandparent or aunt/uncle is a primary caregiver for a child, or if an opposite-sex partner (boyfriend/girlfriend) of the parent lives in the household but isn’t the biological parent, they can receive medical leave to take care of the children who live with them. This isn’t just about gays, even though it’s advertised that way, it’s actually about children in general. Lots of children are being raised by people who aren’t their biological or legal parents. This protects all of them by allowing their caregivers to take time off to care for them.

    It’s really pathetic that people opposed to gay rights are standing up against this when the majority of people it effects will not be gay. (There are a lot more caretaking grandmothers and non-adoptive, unmarried “step-parents” out there than their are gay parents!)

  • Lars

    Teratorn,
    I appreciate your response, thank you for the clarification. That makes sense. As a Safety Professional, I am in HR (reporting structure), but don’t know all the in’s and out’s of HR. Ignorance is not bliss, thank you.

  • Stacy

    This is a breakthrough regardless of it being advertised as a “LGBH” issue. My parents raised my 3 nieces who were 3, 6 and 10 at the time. They did well financially and were able to take early retirement and my Dad was able to get them all on his health and dental insurance. My mom had to take them to Dr. Appointments, emergency room visits, chicken Pox, dental appointments, therapy sessions and all the unforeseen sickness that kids go though. Back then, she would have been terminated from her job for being out so much. Especially for the Therapy for 3 kids scheduled all different times of the week because of school schedules. 2 of my nieces had chicken pox back to back so she would not have been able to go to work for at least 15 days! A few of my kids friends are being raised by Grandparents and other relatives. This is good news for them and anyone raising a child that is not theirs biologically.