U.S. Department of Labor Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Family and Medical Leave Act with New Amendments

The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) entitles certain employees of companies with at least 50 employees to take job-protected leaves of absence of up to 12 weeks for the following reasons:

• incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care or child birth;
• to care for the employee’s child after birth, or placement for adoption or foster care;
• to care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent, who has a serious health condition; or
• for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the employee’s job.

The Department of Labor has announced “two important expansions of FMLA protections.  The first expansion provides families of eligible [military] 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 make use of the FMLA’s protections.”

According to the DOL, “Enabling our military families to care for their loved ones without fear of losing their job and to actively participate in deployment, reunification and recovery reflects our deeper understanding of the role family members have in sustaining an all-volunteer force.  Today’s rule makes clear this administration’s strong, ongoing commitment to respond to the needs and sacrifices of our military families.  The rule also helps ensure that pilots and flight crews will no longer need to choose between career and caring for a loved one.”

Eligible workers may now take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a current service member with a serious injury or illness.  In addition, eligible employees may 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.  According to the DOL, “This means that workers can attend a spouse’s farewell and welcome home ceremonies without being penalized at work.  They also can spend time with family members on leave from active duty service without risking their jobs.”

The DOL has prepared a new notice incorporating the new FMLA amendments.  A PDF of the poster is available here.  The DOL has also revised various FMLA certification and designation forms, which are available here.  Employers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these forms and to revise previously used forms as necessary.

A special note for California employers:  The FMLA sets only the floor of requirements that California employers of 50 or more employees must comply with in terms of job-protected leaves of absence.  The California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) imposes overlapping as well as additional requirements on such employers.  California employers of 50 or more employees would be well-advised to consult an employment attorney to ensure that they are complying with both the FMLA and CFRA in their treatment of employee leaves of absence.

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Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

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