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FMLA Amendments Expand Availability of Leave to Care for Service Members

February 6, 2008

On January 28, 2008, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (the “FMLA”) was amended to extend the leave benefits available to armed services members’ families.

Under the FMLA, employees of covered employers are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member’s or the employee’s own serious health condition or to care for a newborn or newly-adopted child.  The recent FMLA amendments provide additional leave benefits to employees who are the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a member of the Armed Forces.  Such employees are entitled to a total of 26 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period to care for a service member “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.”

In addition, eligible employees will also be entitled to 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period “because of any qualifying exigency” arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on, or has been called for, active duty in the Armed Forces in support of an operation where service members “are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities.”  This provision, however, will not become effective until the Secretary of Labor issues final regulations defining a “qualifying exigency.”  The Department of Labor, nevertheless, encourages employers to provide this type of leave to eligible employees until the final regulations are issued.

The amendments to the FMLA were incorporated into the Defense Department spending measure known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 and are the first expansion of the FMLA in its 15-year history.

For additional information concerning these new amendments, please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys.