The U.S. Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Specifically, the decision holds that the right to marry is a “fundamental right” and that all 50 states must recognize a lawfully licensed and performed same-sex marriage.
Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an eligible employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave “to care for the employee’s spouse” who has a serious health condition. An employee must be needed to provide care for his or her spouse, because of that family member’s serious health condition in order for the employee to take FMLA leave.
An employee may be needed to provide care to the family member, for example (1) when the family member is unable to care for his or her own medical, safety or other needs because of the serious health condition or needs help in being transported to the doctor; or (2) to provide psychological comfort and reassurance to the family member with a serious health condition.
As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, employers must permit eligible employees to take FMLA leave to care for their same-sex spouse with a serious health condition, for qualifying exigency leave if the spouse is being deployed with the military and for other qualifying reasons. FMLA rights must be afforded to eligible employees in a same-sex marriage, regardless of where the marriage was performed or where the employee resides.
Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.