U.S. Department Of Labor Issues Final Rule On FMLA Expansions

On February 4, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law by issuing a final rule implementing two expansions of FMLA leave. The first expansion provides families of eligible veterans with the same job-protected FMLA leave currently available to families of military service members, and it also enables more military families to take leave for activities that arise when a service member is deployed. The second expansion modifies existing rules so that airline personnel and flight crews are better able to use FMLA leave.

The new rule implements Congressional amendments to the FMLA permitting eligible workers to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a current service member with a serious injury or illness. Congress also created qualifying exigency leave, which permits eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave for qualifying exigencies arising out of active duty or call to active duty in support of a contingency operation of a family member serving in the National Guard or Reserve. The expansion will allow employees to spend more time with family members in the military, including when they are on leave from active duty service.

The final rule also implements amendments clarifying the application of the FMLA to airline personnel and flight crews. Until the amendments, many flight crews did not meet FMLA eligibility criteria due to the unique way that their hours were counted.

As a result of the new rules, the Department of Labor has issued new and updated FMLA forms for administering FMLA leave. Employers may wish to use the new model FMLA notification and certification forms, which will be effective until February 28, 2015.