New Revisions to FMLA
As of January 28th, employers of 50 or more employees now have new responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to grant FMLA leave to certain employees taking leave because a member is called up to active duty in the Armed Services or to care for such a family member that suffers an injury while on active duty in the Armed Services.  Since portions of the law became effective when signed into law by President Bush yesterday, employers covered by the FMLA must act quickly to update their existing FMLA practices.  You can learn more about these new requirements and other requirements that employers must meet when dealing with employees involved in the military and their families by participating in person or via telephone in a briefing on "Update on Employment Rights Of Employees In The Military & Their Family" to be conducted by Board Certified Labor & Employment Attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer on February 13, 2008 from 9:00 a.m. 10:00 a.m. Central Time.

Section 585 of H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 amends the FMLA to require that covered employers grant FMLA Leave to FMLA-covered employees under the following two additional circumstances, the first of which took effect January 28th when President Bush signed the law.

1.       Caregiver Leave for an Injured Service Member.  Covered employers must allow FMLA-covered employees who are the spouse, parent, child, or next of kin of a service member who incurred a serious injury or illness on active duty in the Armed Forces to take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for the injured service member in one a 12-month period in combination with regular FMLA leave; and

2.       Family Leave Due to a Call to Active Duty. Covered employers generally must allow FMLA-covered employees who have a spouse, parent, or child who is on or has been called to (or notified of an impending call or order to) active duty in the Armed Forces to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave yearly when they experience an event that is a "qualifying exigency."

The Caregiver Leave requirements of H.R. 4986 became immediately effectively yesterday, when signed into law.  Because the Secretary of Labor must issued regulations defining the events that will be considered a "qualifying exigency" however, those requirements will not be effective until the Secretary of Labor issues final regulations defining "any qualifying exigency."  Accordingly, employers covered by the FMLA need to act immediately to update their FMLA policies and employee benefit plans, notices and other FMLA related documentation and practices to comply with the new Caregiver Leave mandates.  When making these changes, employers should particularly take note that the Caregiver Leave period is 26 weeks, rather than the 12-month period applicable for other types of FMLA Leave.  Care should be exercised to properly document and administer this extended period in leave polices and related benefit programs. 

When updating existing FMLA leave policies, employers also should review other aspects of their existing FMLA and military leave practices for continued compliance and proper coordination.  The amendments to the FMLA adding protections for employees with family members in the military included in H.R. 4986 are the latest in a series of changes in the federal rules impacting employer's obligations to employees who are members of the Armed Services and family members of such individuals in recent years.   

This information was provided by Cynthia Marcotte Stamer who can be reached via e-mail at cynthiastamer@solutionslawyer.net or via telephone at (972) 419-7188.