The DOL just issued an Administrator Interpretation clarifying the definition of “son or daughter” under Section 101(12) of the FMLA with respect to employees who stand “in loco parentis” to a child. According to the Interpretation, while the question of whether an individual stands in loco parentis to a child will depend on the particular facts in each case, “either day-to-day care or financial support may establish an in loco parentis relationship where the employee intends to assume the responsibilities of a parent with regard to a child.”
The accompanying press release makes it clear that DOL views the new Interpretation as expanding the FMLA rights of employees who care for a non-biological child:
As the interpretation makes clear, an uncle who is caring for his young niece and nephew when their single parent has been called to active military duty may exercise his right to family leave. Likewise, a grandmother who assumes responsibility for her sick grandchild when her own child is debilitated will be able to seek family and medical leave from her employer. And an employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same sex partner will be able to exercise the right to FMLA leave to bond with that child.
Employers should review their FMLA practices and train managers and supervisors who are responsible for approving FMLA leave to ensure that they are appropriately handling leave requests by individuals claiming an in loco parentis relationship with a non-biological child.