FMLA Protections Expanded by New Regulations

by Laura Salerno Owens

The Department of Labor has issued a final rule, effective March 8, 2013, which expands the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act for families of military veterans and for airline flight crews. Employers should be aware that additional employees may now be entitled to leave under FMLA. Employers should also update their policies, leave letters, and handbooks to incorporate these changes to the law. Additionally, all employers covered by FMLA will need to post a new FMLA poster by March 8, 2013, the effective date of the new rule.

For families of military veterans, the final rule has three major changes:

  1. The rule expands the definition of a serious injury or illness for current servicemembers to include current servicemembers' pre-existing injuries or illnesses that were aggravated in the line of duty.
  2. The rule expands the FMLA military caregiver leave provision to provide leave to eligible family members of certain veterans receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy if the veteran was a member of the Armed Forces at any time during the five year period preceding the date of the medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy. This five year period is an expansion of the prior regulations.
  3. The rule also expands the qualifying exigency leave category. For example, it increases the length of time an eligible family member may take for the qualifying exigency leave reason of Rest and Recuperation from five days to up to a maximum of 15 calendar days and creates a new qualifying exigency leave category for parental care.

For airline flight crews, the final rule amends the regulations to implement the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act, which establishes FMLA eligibility requirements specifically for airline flight crewmembers and flight attendants (collectively referred to as airline flight crew employees). Highlights of the new special rules applicable to airline flight crew employees include the following:

  1. The new rule provides that an airline flight crew employee meets the hours of service requirement to be eligible for FMLA leave if, during the previous 12-month period, he or she:
    1. has worked or been paid for not less than 60 percent of the applicable total monthly guarantee (or the equivalent) AND
    2. has worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours, not including personal commute time or time spent on vacation, medical, or sick leave.
  2. The rule entitles an eligible airline flight crew employee to 72 days of leave for any FMLA-qualifying reason(s) other than military caregiver leave and 156 days of leave for military caregiver leave.
  3. The rule further provides that employers must account for an airline flight crew employee's intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave usage utilizing an increment no greater than one day.

For a complete list of changes to the FMLA regulations, please visit the DOL website, or contact your favorite Barran Liebman attorney.

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Electronic Alerts are written by Barran Liebman attorneys for their clients and friends. Alerts are not intended as legal advice, but as employment law, labor law, and employee benefits announcements.

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