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Legal Insider: Federal Government Finalizes Same-Sex Leave Rights

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry

The federal government issued a final rule, which is effective on May 9, 2016, completing regulations providing same-sex spouses with the same rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as opposite-sex spouses. The FMLA rights had previously applied only to opposite-sex marriages. An interim version of these rules had been in place for federal employees since 2013. The change, along with other benefits adjustments instituted by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), is a result of the June 26, 2013, U.S. Supreme Court decision, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.

The FMLA permits federal employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year in connection with the birth of a child, adoption, the care of a spouse with serious health conditions, for personal serious health conditions, and for matters involving family demands that relate to a family member’s active duty service. In addition to leave, same-sex spouses have also been eligible since 2013 for other federal employee benefits, such as coverage under health care and other insurance programs and eligibility for retirement annuity survivor benefits. OPM has provided a synopsis of answers to questions regarding such benefits here.

OPM and the federal government have moved relatively quickly following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 to make changes to comply with the law for same-sex spouses. Future adjustments by OPM and other federal agencies can be expected as they comply with the law.

We represent employees in employment matters. If you need assistance with a federal retirement or an employment issue, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

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