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NAW News

Family and Medical Leave Act

- January 2009

FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT [updated January 2009]

With passage of the National Defense Authorization Act the 110th Congress provided the first legislative expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) since its enactment in 1993, the expansion applying to military families as follows:

  • 12 weeks of FMLA leave may be taken when a spouse, son, daughter or parent who is on active duty has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces in support of a contingency operation.
  • A spouse, son, daughter, parent or nearest blood relative may take 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to care for a recovering service member; i.e., a member of the Armed Forces who suffered an injury or illness while on active duty that may render the person unable to perform the duties of the member’s office, grade, rank or rating.

On November 17, 2008, the Department of Labor (DoL) finished regulations implementing this expansion of FMLA in conjunction with the issuance of a new final rule updating existing FMLA regulations. NAW submitted comments in the rulemaking process as did the National Coalition to Protect Family Leave (NCPFL) of which NAW is a member. While far from perfect, the new regulations will move FMLA implementation toward the Department’s stated goal “to improve communication between workers, employers, and healthcare providers … provide needed clarity for both workers and employers about the law’s coverage … (and) reduce uncertainty in the workplace for everyone.”

During the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives passed legislation in this area affecting airline crew members (to apply FMLA’s hours-of-service eligibility rules) and Federal employees (paid leave). Neither bill was taken up by the Senate.

Other bills were introduced in both houses of Congress to expand the FMLA. Some of the suggested expansions included:

  • Covering part-time employees.
  • Covering employees of smaller employers.
  • Adding circumstances or events that qualify for FMLA leave.
  • Providing paid leave.

Non-FMLA leave-related measures introduced in the 110th Congress that bear mention included Kennedy legislation to mandate that employers of 15 or more employees provide seven days of paid sick leave. The legislation was not considered in either House of Congress.

This is an issue area that is virtually certain to present significant challenges for the employer community in the new 111th Congress.