On March 26, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas preliminarily enjoined the same-sex spouse rule promulgated under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), as a result of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska filing a lawsuit to enjoin enforcement of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) rule. The rule, effective March 27, 2015, allows legally married couples – including same-sex couples – to enjoy the rights provided by the FMLA, regardless of the laws in the state in which the employee currently resides. These states argued that the DOL exceeded its jurisdiction by forcing employers to look to the law in the state in which the marriage took place, rather than the law of the state in which the employee who is seeking FMLA leave resides.
The Court found that the final rule would require Texas agencies to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages in violation of state law. The Court’s ruling essentially puts the rule on hold in these four states and, for now, prevents employees in same-sex marriages from receiving the benefits afforded heterosexual married couples under the FMLA. Employers in other states need to comply with the DOL’s rule unless or until a court in their jurisdiction rules likewise. One possible outcome of the Texas court’s ruling is that the DOL may opt not to enforce the new rule in other states until the issue is resolved by the courts. The DOL has requested that the court reconsider its decision. Oral argument is currently scheduled for later this month.