Expanding Federal Employee Benefits for Domestic Partners of Federal Employees

In a memo to chief human capital officers, the Office of Personnel Management is expanding a limited use of leave without pay for domestic partners of federal employees.

Currently, federal employees are allowed to use 24 hours of leave without pay (LWOP) for several activities including:

  • school and early childhood educational activities;
  • routine family medical purposes; and
  • elderly relatives’ health or care needs.

In a new announcement, OPM director John Berry states that “President Obama continues to support this LWOP policy with a current emphasis to extend coverage to Federal employees with same-sex domestic partners.” (emphasis supplied)

The OPM letter directs federal agencies to “analyze its existing policies and make revisions, as appropriate, to incorporate language that will support Federal employees’ with same-sex domestic partners use of up to 24 hours of LWOP each leave year to support the three activities outlined above.”

In expanding the employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners, OPM outlines reasons that LWOP may be granted for the activities outlined in more detail below:

  1. School and Early Childhood Educational Activities.
    Federal agencies should allow employees to participate in school
    activities directly related to the educational advancement of a child,
    including children of an employee’s same-sex domestic partner.  This
    includes parent-teacher conferences or meetings with child-care
    providers, interviewing for a new school or child-care facility, or
    participating in volunteer activities supporting the child’s educational
    advancement.  “School” refers to an elementary school, secondary
    school, Head Start program, or a child-care facility.
  2. Routine Family Medical Purposes.  Federal
    employees should be permitted to accompany the children, including the
    children of their same-sex domestic partners to routine medical or
    dental appointments, such as annual checkups or vaccinations.
  3. Elderly Relatives’ Health or Care Needs.  Federal agencies
    should allow employees to accompany an elderly relative, including the
    elderly relative of their same sex domestic partner to routine medical
    or dental appointments or other professional services related to the
    care of the elderly relative, such as making arrangements for housing,
    meals, phones, banking services, and other similar activities.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47