HR Hotline: Can FMLA Be Used to Care for an Ex-Spouse?
Q: An employee has requested FMLA time off to assist his “wife” in attending medical appointments for a serious health condition. However, we just learned they recently divorced, but he still wants to provide this care. Does the divorce change the situation?
A: It does change the applicability of the FMLA, but doesn’t necessarily mandate a change in your policy decision regarding your employee’s time off.
One of the situations in which the FMLA provides for job-protected time off from work for eligible employees working at a covered employer is where the time off is needed to provide care for an employee’s spouse with a serious health condition.
The definition of spouse under the FMLA has been updated to reflect a wider range of recognized personal relationships:
“Spouse means a husband or wife as defined or recognized in the state where the individual was married and includes individuals in a common-law marriage or same-sex marriage.”
Note, however, it does not include “ex-spouses,” so you are not legally obligated to provide leave for your employee under the circumstances you describe.
You may, of course, allow time off as a positive employee relations practice under your personnel policies, but it would be best to clarify that it is not a qualifying FMLA leave.
That way, you’ll avoid creating an expectation of legal rights that don’t exist.
EXPLORE BY CATEGORY
Stay Connected with CBIA News Digests
The latest news and information delivered directly to your inbox.