Dept. of Labor Expands Definition of “Parent”

In a victory for non-traditional families, the U.S. Department of Labor has expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) so that anyone who assumes caregiving duties for a child may take parental leave regardless of legal or biological relationship.

The words “son and daughter” under the FMLA now mean a “biological, adopted or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis.” In loco parentis was expanded to mean those who care for and financially support the child daily.

The law that “allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to care for loved ones or themselves” now applies to same-sex partners, unmarried partners, and grandparents or aunts and uncles who have taken on care-giving for their relatives’ children.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said:

No one who loves and nurtures a child day-in and day-out should be unable to care for that child when he or she falls ill. No one who steps in to parent a child when that child’s biological parents are absent or incapacitated should be denied leave by an employer because he or she is not the legal guardian…The Labor Department’s action today sends a clear message to workers and employers alike: All families, including LGBT families, are protected by the FMLA.

However, the expansion does not change the fact that same-sex partners cannot take time off to care for each other when they are sick.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user nerdcoregirl / / CC 2.0.


Alexandra was a 2010 editorial intern at Ms. who helped launch the Ms. Blog. She is from Climax, Minnesota and has written for the Grand Forks Herald, the University Chronicle, the St. Cloud Times and Ms. She is now copy-editing for Live Nation/Ticketmaster, and is looking for employment in nonprofits, journalism/PR and/or women's rights. Check out her resume at!