The HR Specialist

DOL: It's time to formalize FMLA military family leave

01/31/2012
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on Jan. 30 proposed new FMLA rules that would formalize several statutory amendments that expanded military family-leave rights.

The FMLA, enacted in 1993, entitles eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

The proposed language would extend the entitlement of military caregiver leave to family members of veterans for up to five years after leaving the military. Now, the law only covers family members of “currently serving” service members.

The proposal also expands the military family leave provisions of the FMLA by extending “qualifying exigency” leave to employees whose family members serve in the regular armed forces. Currently, the law only covers families of National Guard members and reservists. Eligible employees would be entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 12-month period.

The new rules would officially incorporate into the FMLA amendments that were tacked onto the National Defense Authorization Act in 2008 and 2009.

The rules would expand coverage for military caregiver leave to include care for veterans with a serious injury or illness. They allow employees to take FMLA leave to care for veterans who have been discharged within the five preceding years.

The rules also expand military caregiver leave to cover serious injuries or illnesses that result from the aggravation of a preexisting condition in the line of duty for both active-duty service members and covered veterans.

Military family leave provisions of the FMLA would be expanded by extending qualifying exigency leave to employees whose family members serve in the regular armed forces (in addition to the National Guard and reserves). Qualifying exigencies include short-notice deployment, child care and school activities, financial and legal arrangements, rest and recuperation, post-deployment activities, counseling, military events (such as deployment ceremonies) and related activities.

The major provisions of the proposed FMLA rules include:
  • Extension of military caregiver leave to eligible family members of covered veterans with a serious injury or illness
  • A flexible, three-part definition for serious injury or illness of a veteran
  • Extension of military caregiver leave to cover serious injuries or illnesses that result from the aggravation during military service of a preexisting condition for both current service members and veterans
  • Extension of qualifying exigency leave to eligible family members of members of the regular armed forces
  • Inclusion of a foreign deployment requirement for qualifying exigency leave for the deployment of all service members (National Guard, reserves and regular armed forces).
Other provisions of the proposed rules would extend similar FMLA protections to some commercial airline employees.

Read the full text of the proposed FMLA rules here.

The DOL’s web site also offers a fact sheet on the proposed rules as well as a set of questions and answers.

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