Expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act


FMLA expanded for military families

On January 28, the president signed into law a large defense funding authorization package that contains the first expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 15 years. The new FMLA provisions aim to provide FMLA job protections to the families of U.S. soldiers who have been injured in the service or who are on active duty. Congress has been considering measures to expand FMLA for military families over the past year as part of a host of recommendations from the president's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors.

Under the new law, employers must grant 12 weeks of job protected unpaid leave for an employee who has a "qualified exigency" as a result of a spouse, son, daughter or parent being on active duty or being notified of an approaching order to active duty. The law does not define "qualified exigency", but the Department of Labor (DOL) is expected to clarify this term in new FMLA regulations it plans to release in the coming weeks. The FMLA was also amended to provide more leave for employees to care for family members wounded in military service. An employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin of a covered seriously injured service member is eligible for 26 weeks of unpaid job protected leave to care for the service member. The law states that a covered service member is "a member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness." A "serious injury or illness" is defined as an injury or illness an active duty service member receives in the line of duty that renders him or her unable to perform assigned military duties.

More information can be found at the DOL website.

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