Proposed Rules To Implement Family And Medical Leave Act Amendments Would Effectively Make More Employees Eligible For Family And Medical Leave Act Leaves Of Absence

Recently, the United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) amendments that, among other things, broaden the military family leave provisions and incorporate new eligibility requirements for airline flight crew employees.  Comments to the proposed rule are due 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

Under the FMLA, eligible employees of covered employers are entitled to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.  Recently, the FMLA was amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (FY 2010 NDAA) and the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTCA).  According to the Department of Labor, the proposed amendments attempt to align the existing FMLA regulations with these recent statutory amendments.

In effect, the amendments broaden the FMLA’s military family leave coverage.  According to the notice of Proposed Rulemaking, eligible employees will be entitled to take FMLA leave to care for a covered veteran with a serious injury or illness, including any preexisting conditions.  Also, eligible employees with family members serving in the Regular Armed Forces will be entitled to take qualifying exigency leave if such family member is deployed to a foreign country.   Prior to these amendments, exigency leave was limited to family of Reserve and National Guard members.

Additionally, the amendments include new eligibility requirements for airline flight crewmembers and flight attendants.  Under existing FMLA provisions, many pilots’ and flight attendants’ unique work schedules fail to qualify them for FMLA leave.  Under the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, an airline flight crew employee will now meet the FMLA hours of service eligibility requirement if he or she has worked or been paid for not less than 60 percent of the applicable total monthly guarantee and has worked or been paid not less than 504 hours during the previous 12 months.

In general, the proposed amendments effectively entitle more employees to FMLA leave.  Employers should make certain their leave policies comply with current law to ensure that protected leaves are not inadvertently denied to eligible employees.

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