U.S. Department of Labor Expands Application of Family Medical Leave Act

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) recently released an announcement to clarify the definition of “son and daughter”under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to ensure that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship. The FMLA allows workers at covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to care for loved ones or themselves. The 1993 law also allows employees to take time off for the adoption or the birth of a child.

The DOL’s clarification explains that an employee who has taken responsibility to care for a child is eligible for protected leave from work under the FMLA, including an uncle who is caring for his young niece and nephew when their single parent has been called to active military duty, a grandmother who assumes responsibility for her sick grandchild when her own child is debilitated and an employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same sex partner. As a result of the DOL’s clarification, many employers may need to revise their current FMLA policies to reflect a broader definition of “parent.”