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Gay federal employees can take FMLA leave

New Jersey employees may be familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act. Enacted in 1993, the FMLA allows covered workers to take leave from their jobs without risk of termination for certain family and medical-related reasons. Now that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the rights that are extended to married employees by the FMLA apply to employees in same-sex marriages.

On April 8, the Office of Personnel Management updated its FMLA regulations to reflect the new laws about same-sex marriage. The language in the regulations now states that federal employees in both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages can take leave to care for a sick spouse. The FMLA allows each employee 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.

Though the wording in the FMLA regulations was only recently changed, federal employees with same-sex spouses have had the right to take family leave since June 2013. In February 2015, the Labor Department published a new rule for non-federal employees stating that same-sex spouses were included in the definition of spouse and thus entitled to FMLA employment rights. The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage also allows same-sex spouses to qualify for spousal employment health benefits and retirement benefits.

When an employee's spouse is ill, the employee may want to take advantage of their FMLA rights and spend 12 weeks caring for their spouse. Before, during and after an employee takes family leave, they are legally protected from employment discrimination. The law also protects them from retaliatory acts such as wrongful termination.

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