Critical employment policies and benefits can depend on whether an employee has a “spouse,” but just who is legally considered a “spouse” has evolved significantly. Employers can no longer assume that “spouse” means a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife. They need to consider state laws, which differ in their recognition of same-sex marriages. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act affords employees leave to care for a “spouse,” and now employers will need to look to state law to determine the scope of this term.
As reported in BakerHostetler’s Executive Alert “Deconstructing DOMA: The DOL Takes Its First Step Down the Path Toward Extended Rights for Same-Sex Spouses,” the United States Department of Labor has already started to implement the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, and this has important implications for employers. In case you missed the Alert, we encourage you to read it here.