On March 26, 2015, a federal judge granted an injunction in response to suits filed by attorneys general in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Nebraska. The injunction suspends enforcement of the DOL’s final rule related to same-sex spouses in those states. The final rule, which went into effect for 46 other states on March 27, 2015, expanded the definition of spouse under the FMLA to include same-sex spouses who were legally married in a place that recognizes such marriages, regardless of their place of residence (please see the March 10, 2015 edition of Compliance Corner for more information). The attorneys general argue that the DOL’s final rule puts states in the position of either violating state law or federal regulation.
Subsequently, on March 31, 2015, the DOL confirmed in a request for hearing court filing that they will not enforce the rule in the four states covered by the decision, stating:
“[W]hile the preliminary injunction remains in effect, the [DOL does] not intend to take any action to enforce the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) . . . against the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, or Nebraska, or officers, agencies, or employees of those states acting in their official capacity, in a manner that employs the definition of the term “spouse” contained in the February 25, 2015, final rule . . . .”
The court’s injunction temporarily suspends enforcement until a final ruling is made. Oral arguments occurred April 13. In the meantime, employers with operations in these four states should be aware that FMLA requests (or, if not requested, the employer’s knowledge that an FMLA request might be a factor) for the care of a same-sex spouse due to a serious health condition or other FMLA-qualifying reason, will require the assistance of outside legal counsel specializing in employment law until this issue is resolved. Finally, four pending cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, with a decision expected in June, may also indirectly resolve this issue (See the Feb. 10, 2015 Compliance Corner, specifically articles for Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio).
State of Texas vs. U.S. No. 7:15-cv-00056-O »
DOL Request for Hearing »
Supreme Court Pending Cases »