The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Labor Department has issued guidance to inform employers, employees, and federal courts about changes coming to the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that came as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. According to the new guidance, the FMLA now protects married same-sex couples.
Tico Almeida of Freedom to Work approved of the changes. In an August 12 statement, Almeida said “…we are thrilled that the Labor Department has issued public guidance that will let employers and federal courts know that gay and lesbian married couples must be treated with respect when they seek workplace leave to take care of a same-sex spouse that gets into an accident or is diagnosed with an illness.” explained Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, a national organization dedicated to ending workplace discrimination. Almeida’s organization had endorsed the nomination of Tom Perez to his current job as Secretary of Labor.
“Given the incredible passion and intellect that Secretary Perez brings to these important issues, we remain hopeful that he will continue to push to expand LGBT career opportunity and persuade the Obama White House to join the Labor Department in standing on the right side of history on LGBT workplace issues,” continued Almeida.
According to a statement from Freedom to Work, the Family & Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, the Labor Department did not require employers to grant same-sex married couples leave if one partner in the relationship fell ill and needed care because DOMA prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage. “But with DOMA out of the picture, the Obama administration is free to enforce FMLA on behalf of married same-sex couples. Gay and lesbian employees can also enforce their FMLA rights in federal court,” said the statement.
Almeida is a Yale-trained lawyer who has worked in civil rights litigation and as legal counsel in Congress. He founded Freedom to Work in 2011. Among the members of his board of advisors are Donna Cartwright, Co-President of Pride at Work, AFL-CIO; Jarrod Chlapowski, former Field and Development Director at Servicemembers United; Becky Dansky, civil rights lobbyist and former lead ENDA lobbyist for The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; the Honorable Edward Feighan, former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-OH); and Bill Hendrix, DOW Chemical.