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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Family and Medical Leave Act: Current Legislative Activity

Linda Levine
Specialist in Labor Economics


Time off to care for one's own health problems or those of family members is not a job-protected entitlement. Thus, employees sometimes have jeopardized their continued employment to be away from the workplace to address health-related matters. With passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA, P.L. 103-3), Congress mandated in Title I that private employers with at least 50 employees and public employers of any size provide job-protected unpaid leave for 12 workweeks in a 12-month period to employees who meet the length-ofservice and hours-of-work eligibility requirement in order to care for their own, a child's, spouse's, or parent's serious health condition; to care for a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed foster child; and upon the birth or placement of an adopted or foster child. Employees in the federal government's executive branch generally are covered under Title II of the FMLA, which is administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). 

The Department of Labor, which administers Title I of the act, replaced its 1995 regulation effective January 16, 2009. The final rule contains many changes and addresses regulatory issues raised by enactment of amendments to the FMLA in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of FY2008. The NDAA provided (1) 12 workweeks of FMLA leave to Title I FMLAeligible employees dealing with issues arising from family members in the Guard or Reserves being called to active duty as a result of a qualifying exigency and (2) 26 workweeks of FMLA leave to Title I and Title II FMLA-eligible employees and next of kin caring for seriously injured or ill service members in the Armed Forces, Guard, or Reserves. Relatedly, in August 2009, OPM proposed regulations about military family caregiver leave for eligible civil service employees. 

In October 2009, the President signed into law the NDAA for FY2010, which contained further changes to the FMLA. P.L. 111-84 extends qualifying exigency leave to FMLA-eligible family members of regular and reserve members of the Armed Forces deployed to a foreign country and extends military family caregiver leave to eligible family members and next of kin of recent veterans of the Armed Forces, Guard, or Reserves. These provisions apply to employers covered by Title I and Title II of the FMLA. 

The Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act was the only other bill to amend the FMLA that advanced beyond committee referral in the 110th Congress. The 111th Congress approved the reintroduced bill, which the President signed in December 2009 (P.L. 111-119). The law recognizes that because the work hours of flight attendants and pilots were for the purpose of FMLA eligibility being calculated based on in-flight time only, full-time flight attendants and pilots usually work less than 1,250 hours and were therefore unable to take leave under the act. 

Other bills introduced during the 111th Congress would, among other things, effectively increase the number of employees eligible to take FMLA leave by such means as changing the hours-ofwork requirement, adding new reasons for time off, and increasing the groups of eligible employees. Bills include H.R. 389, H.R. 626/S. 354, H.R. 824, S. 3680, H.R. 2776, and H.R. 5944
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Date of Report: August 3, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL31760
Price: $29.95

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