Expert's View

OPM has issued regulations setting new policy regarding who is considered to be a family member or immediate relative for the use of sick, leave, funeral leave, voluntary leave transfer, voluntary leave bank, and emergency leave transfer.

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These regulations were written in response to the President’s memo to the heads of departments and agencies about federal benefits and non-discrimination. They revise the definition of immediate relative and add definitions of parent, son or daughter, committed relationship and domestic partner.

From now on, the term immediate relative will include the following:

* spouse and his or her parents;

* sons and daughters, and their spouses;

* parents, and their spouses;

* brothers and sisters, and their spouses;

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* grandparents and grandchildren, and their spouses;

* domestic partner and his or her parents, including domestic partners of any of the individuals listed above; and

* any individuals related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is equivalent of a family relationship.

The term parent is clarified to include:

* a biological, adoptive, step or foster parent of the employee, or a person who was a foster parent when the employee was a minor;

* a person who is the legal guardian of the employee or was the legal guardian when the employee was a minor or required a legal guardian;

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* a person who stands in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor or required someone to stand in that position; or

* the parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.

The term son or daughter is clarified to include:

* a biological, adopted, step or foster son or daughter of the employee;

* a person who is a legal ward or was a legal ward of the employee when that individual was a minor or required a legal guardian;

* a person for whom the employee stands in loco parentis or stood in that position when the individual was a minor and required that; or

* the son and daughter of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.

Domestic partner means "an adult in a committed relationship with another adult, including both same sex and opposite-sex relationships. And committed relationship means "one in which the employee, and the domestic partner of the employee, are each other’s sole domestic partner (and are not married to or domestic partners with anyone else); and share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare and financial obligations. This includes but is not limited to any relationship between two individuals of the same or opposite sex that is granted legal recognition by a State or the District of Columbia as a marriage or analogous relationship (including, but not limited to, a civil union."

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It remains to be seen how agencies will administer this significant expansion of persons whose circumstances could, for example, trigger a request for leave. When asked what documentation might be required to establish a relationship, OPM pointed out that "an agency does not typically request specific documentation to prove and employee’s relationship with his or her family member (e.g., parent, spouse, sister, brother)." It went on to say that "we find that agencies are in the best position to administer their own leave programs and should follow the same procedures for all employees. With regard to documentation, agencies continue to have the same authority to request more information in cases of suspected leave abuse."

Over to you, agencies.

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