Just the day before the new DOL rule was to go into effect extending FMLA coverage to same-sex couples in Texas (and everywhere else) if the marriage was legally recognized in the state of celebration, a Texas federal court enjoined enforcement of the rule until further hearing. The federal case is Texas v. United States of America, No. 7:15-cv-00056 (N.D. Texas 2015).
Four States Challenged New Definition of “Spouse” By DOL
Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska attorneys general sought an injunction, challenging the DOL rule’s revised definition under FMLA of “spouse”, which would look to the law where the marriage was performed for the definition of a legal “spouse”, not the state of the employee’s residence.
Injunction Not In Effect Everywhere
Because only the four named states were plaintiffs in the Texas lawsuit, the preliminary injunction only applies in those states for now. Because same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in those states, employees in those states cannot claim the same-sex spouse FMLA leave benefits.
Employers Can Turn the Clock Back Again in Texas For Now
So, until resolution of this case, or action by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding whether the 14th Amendment requires states to allow marriage between two people of the same sex, the new FMLA rule granting FMLA rights to same-sex spouses of employees is put on hold. Many believe the Supreme Court will find that states must allow same-sex marriage in the pending challenge when it rules later this summer. That would render this issue moot under FMLA and the new rule would be effective again.