Gay, straight federal workers benefit from new leave policy
Updated 5:39 p.m. ET
Federal workers can take leave to attend to a sick or deceased domestic partner starting July 14, the Office of Personnel Management announced Monday.
Unlike recent changes to federal personnel policy that apply only to same-sex partners, the changes also apply to opposite-sex domestic partners. The policy change -- published in Monday's Federal Register -- is part of reforms ordered last year by President Obama when he extended fringe benefits to the same-sex partners of gay federal workers. Government lawyers concluded that opposite-sex partners did not need to be included in those changes because heterosexual couples may obtain such benefits through marriage.
The change announced Monday essentially adds opposite-sex and same-sex partners, stepparents, stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren to the list of relationships that permit a federal worker to take leave. The changes do not apply to the Family and Medical Leave Act, a law that only Congress can change.
OPM added stepparents, stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren at the request of agencies and workers concerned that the personnel policy did not explicitly list them. Monday's notice in the Federal Register also reminded workers that they may take leave for sick or dying relatives who are not explicitly listed in the notice.
"The fact that a specific relationship is not expressly included in these definitions is not meant to diminish the familial bond, or to imply that leave may not be used to care for a person with that relationship," OPM said in the Register. "Although we agree that any of the suggested relationships may be considered a close association with the employee that is equivalent to a family relationship, not every employee's relationship will have this close association. For example, some employees may have been raised by an aunt, while others may have never had the opportunity to meet their aunt."
OPM also declined to extend the leave policy to pet owners eager to stay home with sick or dying animals, saying workers would have to use annual leave or leave without pay in those circumstances.
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, hailed the changes, saying "This action reflects the structure of today’s families. These changes are additional important steps in helping ensure fairness in the federal workplace."
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| June 14, 2010; 1:21 PM ET
Categories: Workplace Issues
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