Bill redefines public employment definition of ‘immediate family members’


A bill that seeks to redefine the term “immediate family members” now heads to the House of Representatives for action.

The House Judicial and Governmental Operations Committee unanimously adopted Rep. Alice Igitol’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 20-144, which seeks to redefine the term “immediate family members” to include the common-law spouses.

Common-law spouses are further defined as “two adults who are in [a] relationship together and have been living at the same residence for over one year.”

According to the bill’s findings and purpose, the intent of the bill was to allow couples in relationships similar to marriage to apply for benefit usually reserved for those legally married.

JGO chair Rep. Ivan Blanco (R-Saipan) said his committee amended the bill to allow for common-law spouses to avail of other types of leave such as compassionate leave, Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, and maternity or paternity leave just to name a few, just as legal spouses are entitled to.

“Immediate family members still include siblings, legal spouses, children, etc., but some folks are unmarried [and might] have somebody that has been there for them…what we need to do is to include the common-law spouse under immediate family members,” said Blanco.

JGO unanimously adapted the measure along with the amendments, which was introduced by Rep. Edwin Aldan (R-Tinian).

Civil Service Commission chair Herman Deleon Guerrero said in his comments on the bill that it was something his commission supported.

“A number of employees are committed to common-law relationships and have the same need for family members as do those legally married employees,” he said in response to JGO’s request for comments.

Deleon Guerrero specified that with the new definition of “immediate family members,” the commission could now utilize it for issuing leaves usually reserved for legally married couples.

“The commission also intends to adopt this definition for use with regard to eligibility for Paternity Leave, Compassionate Leave, and the FMLA,” he added.

The commissioner through Deleon Guerrero’s comments also took the position to urge the legislature to consider a bill that would “establish and define common-law marriage for the community.”

The other government entities that JGO solicited comments from did not respond. H.B. 20-143, HD1 now heads to the House of Representatives for action.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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