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Military and federal workers entitled to FMLA benefits

When the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, it opened the door for partners in same-sex marriages to access benefits previously unavailable to them. For same-sex couples in San Antonio, that decision is finally bearing fruit. The Office of Personnel Management recently issued a memo detailing how the decision affects benefits available to same-sex partners of federal employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Guidelines in the memo state that, for the purposes of federal law, a same-sex marriage must be recognized as valid if it was legally performed in another state, regardless of the laws regarding same-sex marriage in the state in which the couple resides. The guidance has huge implications for same-sex couples in Texas. Under the new guidelines, the military and federal employers can no longer discriminate against same-sex couples who request unpaid medical leave to care for a pregnant spouse or newborn child.

In addition, while FMLA benefits are not usually retroactive, the rule says same-sex couples who were forced to take unpaid leave or use paid vacation time off to cover family medical leave expenses between June 26, when the Supreme Court decision was issued, and October 26, when the new rules were finalized, may apply for benefits under FMLA. Military and civilian federal workers who wish to take advantage of the FMLA benefits have until the end of the second pay period after the new rule went into effect to apply for retroactive benefits.

Employment discrimination against workers who request paternity or maternity leave under the FMLA is all too common in Texas. This very public step by the federal government sends a strong signal to employers. If you or your spouse has lost your job or been discriminated against for using unpaid time off benefits under the FMLA, a skilled lawyer may be able to assist you. 

Source: NWFdailynews.com, "Same-sex spouses eligible for FMLA benefits," Nov. 7, 2013

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