On March 26th, the eve of the effective date the FMLA regulation that changed the definition of spouse from a “place of residence rule” to a “place of celebration” rule, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, in Texas v. United States, Civil Action No. 7:15-cv-00056 (N.D. Tex.), granted a request made by the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska for a preliminary injunction (i.e., a temporary legal hold) that will stop, at least temporarily, the changes to the FMLA definition of spouse.
These 4 states sued the federal government, arguing that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) FMLA regulatory change violated their right to not recognize same-sex marriages. In other words, they argued, if employers were to recognize same-sex marriages for FMLA purposes, the employers would be violating the plaintiff states’ own laws or constitutions that require marriage to be between one man and one woman. Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor agreed, ruling that the plaintiff states would be irreparably harmed if the FMLA rule were allowed to go into effect on Friday, March 27th. As a result, the Judge’s order temporarily bars the DOL from enforcing the rule pending a final decision at a hearing that is scheduled for April 13th.
Technically, at this time the temporary injunction only applies to Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Nebraska. However, The DOL may decide to hold off on enforcement nation-wide pending a final ruling, or it may continue to enforce the new FMLA definition of spouse in the states that recognize same-sex marriages.
At this time, Reed Group is waiting and seeing how this will impact our LeavePro™ software, services, and our clients. We have contacted the Department of Labor for guidance on its position and are monitoring this matter closely. Reed Group will update this blog as soon as we have more information.
Regardless, the outcome of the Texas Court’s final decision might be moot once the Supreme Court issues a decision in the same-sex marriage cases that are pending before it this term.