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DOL revised FMLA definition of ’spouse’ will not be enforced in four states

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Consistent with a preliminary injunction imposed by federal court in Texas on March 26, the Department of Labor has confirmed that it will not be enforcing in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska its final rule revising the definition of “spouse” under the FMLA to include employees in same-sex marriages.

Because the issue of conflicts between state and federal definitions of marriage is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court as well as many lower federal courts, in Texas v. United States of Americathe court issued a preliminary injunction staying the implementation of the DOL’s recent amendments to its FMLA regulations. “Without a doubt, the questions involved in this action are serious and must be resolved by the proper authority,” the district court wrote, adding, “the Supreme Court will soon address these issues and provide much needed clarity for the lower courts.”

In a request for hearing on the issue of whether the preliminary injunction should have been issued and should instead be dissolved, the federal government said that “while the preliminary injunction remains in effect, the defendants do not intend to take any action to enforce the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act … or the Department of Labor’s FMLA regulations, 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, Definition of Spouse Under the Family and Medical Leave Act … and would have been inconsistent with the previous definition employing a “place of residence” rule.”