The Department of Labor issued new regulations for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), expanding its coverage to include non-traditional families like same-sex partners who take care of their partner’s children and relatives who may care for a niece or nephew or cousin.
Under the new rule, any person “who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship” can take family and medical leave.
“This is a critical step in ensuring that children have the support and care they need from the persons who have assumed that responsibility,” said Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the department’s Wage and Hour Division. “Nothing in the statute or regulations suggests that we should restrict the rights of various individuals who take on that very important role.”
The FMLA allows certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new baby, a newly adopted or foster child, a seriously ill family member, or for their own serious health condition. After the leave, employees are entitled to return to the same or en equivalent position with the same salary and benefits.
The law was enacted to help employees balance their work and family lives by allowing them time off to take care of important family concerns without fear of losing their jobs or benefits. Prior to the FMLA, many workers were unable to take time off from work during family or health emergencies for fear of losing their jobs.
“No person who takes on the difficult, yet rewarding, role of raising a child should fear losing a job or a paycheck if that child falls ill,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The new rule makes it clear that no matter its make up, all families deserve the same rights and protections under the law. This is a tremendous civil and human rights victory for all families.”