Catching up with the FMLA

Recent developments with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) have prompted us to take the time to update all of you.

First, we owe the FMLA a belated Happy Birthday! The card’s in the mail? February 5, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of President Bill Clinton signing the FMLA into law. Congrats to the FMLA on reaching 20 – you’re not quite old enough to buy alcohol, but you know a guy that can help you out.

Second, the Department of Labor (DOL) celebrated the FMLA’s birthday as only a government agency could by issuing a final rule amending FMLA regulations that went into effect March 8, 2013.

The DOL’s final rule implemented expansions to military family leave and leave for airline flight crew members under the FMLA, while also tweaking a handful of other provisions.

Changes to Military Family Leave

Until recently, caregiver leave was only available to employees caring for current service members, not veterans. Under the new regulations, caregiver leave can be taken up to five years after the servicemember leaves the military and for an injury or illness that occurred before active duty but was aggravated by the military service.

Previously, exigency leave was available to family members of Reserve and National Guard members, and not regular servicemembers. Exigency leave is now available to family members of regular servicemembers, as well as Reserve and National Guard members, as long as they are deployed abroad.

Also note the new regulations allow for the use of FMLA leave to care for a servicemember’s parent when that parent is incapable of self-care.

Changes to Leave Eligibility for Airline Flight Crew

The changes in FMLA regulations as they apply to airline flight crew helped align their leave eligibility requirements to everyone else’s.

We’re sure you remember from our prior posts about FMLA such as “When Do Holidays Count As FMLA Leave?” and  “Two Wrongs Can Make An FMLA-Right,” the FMLA section of this fantastic site, to be FMLA-eligible, an employee must work at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12-month period, which equates to 60% of a typical 40-hour workweek.

The new regulations make clear that the hours counting toward an airline flight crewmember’s eligibility include all hours worked or which they are paid, not just those spent working in flight. A crewmember will be eligible if s/he has worked or been paid for not less than 60% of the applicable total monthly guarantee and has worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours during the preceding 12-month period.

For additional information, read the final FMLA rule. The “major provisions” of the FMLA can be found here, and most helpfully, a side-by-side comparison of the old and new regulations can be found here.