Proposed Regs Issued on Benefits for Partners of Fed Employees

September 18, 2009 ( - The federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued proposed regulations to offer certain benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees as ordered by President Barack Obama in June.

The OPM issued a proposal to expand eligibility to apply for coverage under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). In its proposal, the definition of “qualified relative” is expanded to cover the same-sex domestic partners of eligible Federal and U.S. Postal Service employees and annuitants.

The OPM explained that opposite-sex domestic partners are not included in the proposed regulation because they may obtain eligibility for federal long-term care insurance through marriage, an option not currently available to same-sex domestic partners.

The OPM proposal, which includes instructions for submitting comments, is here .

In June, President Obama used an executive memorandum to extend long-term care benefits and family and parental leave to the same-sex partners of federal employees, but said he could not allow them access to other benefits — including enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — without legislative changes (see Obama Orders Some Benefits Extended to Federal Worker Same-sex Partners ).

In July, a House subcommittee responded by passing a bill that would extend health care and other benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees (see Bill Would Extend Other Benefits to Fed Employees’ Same-sex Partners ).

The OPM also issued a proposal to modify definitions related to family member and immediate relative of a federal employee in 5 CFR part 630 for purposes of use of sick leave, funeral leave, voluntary leave transfer, voluntary leave bank, and emergency leave transfer. In its proposal, the definition of family member is expanded to include domestic partners, grandparents, and grandchildren of federal employees, as well as domestic partners of federal employees' sons and daughters, parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents and grandchildren.

In addition, the OPM defined domestic partner as an adult in a committed relationship with another adult of either the same sex or opposite sex. Committed relationship means that the employee and his or her domestic partner 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.

The proposal says a committed relationship 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 by the District of Columbia as a marriage or analogous relationship (including, but not limited to a civil union).

The OPM made clear that its proposed changes do not apply to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), noting that the situations in which an employee can invoke FMLA leave and the individuals for whom an employee can provide care under FMLA are specified in law.

The OPM's Absence and Leave proposal, including instructions for submitting comments, is here .