Wyatt Employment Law Report


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Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage: Obergefell v. Hodges and Its Impact on Employers

By Amanda Warford Edge

rainbow flagEarlier today, in Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, the U.S. Supreme Court declared, in a 5-4 ruling, that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated that “laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.” Further, “the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.” Prior to this ruling, fourteen states (including Kentucky) banned same-sex marriages.

This ruling is, of course, game-changing for individuals across the nation – impacting them on social, political and personal levels. The ruling will also influence Kentucky employers, whose practices and procedures inevitably need to be updated.

First, Kentucky employers will need to make certain administrative changes to ensure that same-sex spouses are covered. For example, employers might need to modify their enrollment or eligibility forms to ensure that health benefits are available to those with same-sex spouses. Second, Kentucky employers will need to Continue reading


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Texas Federal Court Stays Enforcement of DOL’s New Definition of Spouse in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska

medical leave requestThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule, effective March 27, 2015, changing the definition of spouse for purposes of same-sex spousal leave under the FMLA. The former rule, a “place of residence” rule, stated that an employer was required to provide same-sex spousal leave to qualified employees under the FMLA only if the marriage was enforceable in the employee’s state of residence. The new “place of celebration” rule states that same-sex spousal leave must be provided to qualified employees if the marriage is valid in the place where the marriage is performed. Therefore, under the new rule, if an employee is married in California (where same sex marriage is valid), but resides in Kentucky (where same sex marriage is not valid), the Kentucky employer must provide spousal leave to qualified employees.

Texas, joined by several other states, sued the DOL over the new rule and sought a preliminary injunction in federal court enjoining its enforcement. Texas argued that Continue reading


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FMLA Protections Apply to Same-Sex Couples if Marriages Are Valid in State of Celebration

The Department of Labor issued a final rule yesterday that extends FMLA protections to eligible employees in same sex marriages so long as the marriages are legal where the ceremonies were performed. This is the so-called “place of celebration” rule. The former rule authorized FMLA spousal leave only if same-sex marriage was valid in the employee’s state of residence (i.e. “state of residence” rule). Under the new place of celebration rule, if an eligible employee is married in a state that authorizes same-sex marriage, FMLA spousal leave is permitted even if same-sex marriage is not valid in the employee’s state of residence.

medical leave requestThe issue of whether the FMLA permitted same-sex spousal leave arose after the United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675, 2693 (2013), that the Federal definition of marriage excluding same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Courts had held that the Federal definition of marriage applied to FMLA spousal leave, even though the FMLA regulations stated the state’s law of the employee’s residence applied to determine the validity of the marriage. Since Windsor found the Federal definition of marriage unconstitutional, the FMLA definition of “spouse” applied. Many commentators were dissatisfied with the FMLA place of residence rule because Continue reading