The Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) is excited to announce that the Department of Labor has clarified when siblings may be eligible to take job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)! In two updated Fact Sheets 28B and 28C and a FAQ, the department describes the situations when sibs may be protected. For the first time, the Department has included siblings among those eligible for FMLA job-protected leave under certain circumstances.

As you may have heard, siblings are not explicitly included in the law. At the SLN, we have heard from you about the problems this creates for our families. Even a member of our own board ran into this barrier when she tried to take leave to care for her brother. The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for their own health or to care for a family member, including to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition. Sibling are not listed.

However, the Department of Labor expands on those definitions in its fact sheets and frequently asked questions. Specifically it includes instances when someone may be acting in loco parentis, or “in the place of a parent.” After hearing from the SLN and other disability advocates, the Department of Labor agreed to clarify that siblings may meet this definition. If a sibling steps in to care for an adult sibling who is “incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability” (See Fact Sheet 28B), he or she may be performing caretaking duties like a parent would and may be able to claim in loco parentis eligibility FMLA protected leave. For more information, see the SLN’s Fact Sheet on the FMLA and Siblings.

We are very happy with this change in interpretation of the law, but we will continue to fight for a full legislative fix to ensure that siblings are always protected.

We would also like to thank our partners in this work, including the National Council on Aging, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, The Arc, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and National Partnership for Women and Families.

Originally published on August 7, 2015 on