The Labor Department yesterday said it interprets the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow an employee to take leave to care for any child for whom that employee is the primary caregiver, “regardless of the legal or biological relationship.”
This new interpretation of how FMLA defines “son and daughter” means that any employee in the United States will be able to take unpaid time off to care for any child he is serving as parent to. That includes an employee’s nephew or grandchild, if the employee has stepped in to raise the child, or the son or daughter of an employee’s unmarried domestic partner — gay or straight.
The change is similar to regulations the Office of Personnel Management issued last week for federal employees, which allowed federal employees to use paid leave to care for their domestic partners — both same-sex and opposite-sex — and their partners’ children. But since OPM’s changes last week granting paid leave are more generous than unpaid FMLA leave, these Labor Department changes are likely to affect more private-sector workers and other non-federal employees than feds.
Yesterday’s announcement is another step in the Obama administration’s gradual expansion of workplace benefits to gay and lesbian workers. But gay rights activists have criticized the slow pace of reforms from the White House, and the lack of significant progress toward repealing the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.