Family Medical Leave Act – Recent Administrator Interpretation

A recent Administrator’s Interpretation was issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division clarifying the definition of “son or daughter” under Section 101(12) of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period to care for a child after adoption or birth, or to care for a child with a serious health condition.

The Interpretation allows for broad coverage under the FMLA by adopting a broad definition of son and daughter. The definition of son or daughter under the FMLA includes biological, adopted, and foster children, as well as a legal ward and child of a person standing in loco parentis.  A person standing in loco parentis, or “in the place of a parent,” is understood to mean a person who has assumed obligations typical of a parent without formally adopting the child.  The purpose of this broad definition is to acknowledge that often the day-to-day responsibility of caring for a child falls to someone without a biological or legal relationship to the child.  Whether an employee stands in loco parentis depends on several factors such as the age of the child, the child’s dependence on the employee, the amount of support provided and to what extent the employee performs duties commonly associated with parenthood.  Employees with such responsibility entitled to leave under the FMLA.  US Dept of Labor – Administrator’s Interpretation

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