EMPLOYMENT LAW: Proposed Family Medical Leave Act Amendments-Military Families
Last month’s topic dealt with the rights of returning military personnel in the work place under federal law. Related to this topic are the new proposed Amendments to the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) by the United States Department of Labor. Note: These Amendments are not yet in place. The Amendments would expand FMLA provisions of unpaid medical leave, as it relates to family members of returning military, who are injured and/or disabled as a result of their service. The proposed changes would also apply to family members of airline flight crews.
Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, in making her proposals noted that these changes are designed to keep America’s basic promise to service men and women to care for them when they are injured in the line of duty.
As you know, FMLA requires employers to grant unpaid leave to workers for medical and family issues, such as pregnancy, family illness or other qualified reasons if they meet the statutory criteria of working 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months immediately preceding the commencement of the leave. The proposed Amendments would modify the general FMLA rule so as to offer greater benefits to soldiers and their families. Amendments would include: (1) The extension of the period in which a military caregiver may apply for FMLA for up to five years after a service member leaves the military, including for conditions that arise after the veteran has left the military. The law currently only extends leave to family of current service members. (2) The changes would also extend the time an employee may take off work to spend with a military member who is on rest and recuperation leave (R & R) from five days to 15 days.
The Secretary, Solis, made the announcement concerning the Amendments in a press conference on January 30th. In connection with that press conference she noted specifically that the proposed expansion of the FMLA is specifically calculated to assist military families and the caregivers of those families so that they can assist injured and disabled service members.
Some of these proposed Rules would require implementation by Congress. Some of them may very well be implemented through the Rule making process of the Department of Labor. With the political atmosphere in Washington, it will be interesting to see how these proposed Amendments will work their way through the governmental channels.
We will keep you posted. --Jim Palmer