Department of Labor Says FMLA Covers Non-Traditional Parents

Among other things, the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows covered employees to take off up to 12 weeks from work per year to care a newborn, newly adopted or placed child, or to care for a son or daughter with a serious health condition. However, the FMLA does not indicate whether someone who provides care for a child, but is not the child’s biological or legal parent. Among other situations, this arises in same sex marriage and civil union in which only one person is the child’s legal parent or guardian.

To answer this question, on June 22, 2010 the United States Department of Labor (DOL)’s Deputy Administrator issued a formal interpretation of the term “son or daughter” under the FMLA. The DOL indicated that someone is an employee’s son or daughter if they provide either financial support or day-to-day care for the child.

The DOL reached this conclusion because the FMLA defines “parent” to include someone who acts “in Loco parentis.” Someone acts in Loco parentis if they fill the normal obligations of a parent, but are not the child’s biological or adoptive parent. Someone who acts in Loco parentis is entitled to take an FMLA to take care of the child.

The DOL provided an example that an individual who provides day-to-day care for his or her partner’s child could be considered the child’s parent under the FMLA, even if he or she has no legal or biological relationship to the child. It also indicates that this can be true irrespective of whether the child has a biological parent in their home, or already has both a mother and a father.


If your employer in New York or New Jersey has violated your rights under the FMLA, contact the employment lawyers of Rabner Baumgart Ben-Asher & Nirenberg to discuss your legal rights.