The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a new final rule regarding employee family and medical leave, under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).
The 15-year old FMLA grants eligible workers the right to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid family and medical leave in a 12-month period to care for themselves or family members, without losing their jobs or benefits.
The FMLA also grants eligible workers the right to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid family and medical leave, to attend to matters of childbirth or adoption.
President Bush authorized military family leave under the FMLA, when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law in January 2008.
Subsequently, the new final rule updates the FMLA regulations to grant eligible workers the right to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave for a qualified emergency arising from a family member’s active military duty, and up to 26 workweeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member who was seriously injured or became seriously ill during active military duty.
Update: On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. The 2010 NDAA expands the definition of “serious injury or illness” for FMLA military family leave. The new Act also grants eligible workers the right to take military family leave within five years after family members are discharged from the military, to address serious service-connected injuries or illnesses that develop or continue after service members become veterans.
The final rule also clarifies certain family and medical leave rules for workers and employers. Lastly, it changes rules based on decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts regarding family and medical leave under the FMLA.
As a result, the new final rule tightens eligibility requirements and responsibilities for employees and their family members in need of care; for example, under the new rule, employees who wish to take family or medical leave for chronic (repeated or constant) medical conditions, must prove that they or their family members visited a health care provider at least twice a year for treatment of the same conditions.
Another change under the new rule requires at least two doctor visits after an employee’s or his or her family member’s incapacitation starts: the first visit within seven days and the second within 30 days. Before the new rule, two doctor visits (or one with a regime of continuing care, such as medication) were required during family and medical leave, but with no time restraints.
Yet another change among a few more for both employers and employees, requires employees to follow their employers’ work-leave policies (except in emergencies) when notifying their employers of their intent to take FMLA leave. Before the new rule, employees could notify their employers within two days after taking FMLA leave.
Generally, labor unions and worker-advocacy groups oppose the final rule, while business groups consider the changes to be minor.
Regardless, the final rule goes into effect on January 16, 2009. It’s likely that paid family and medical leave will be under congressional debate next year, after President-Elect Barack Obama officially takes office.
To determine your eligibility and responsibilities for family and medical leave as an employee, visit the Family and Medical Leave Act elaws Advisor from the DOL. The Advisor also has an employer section.
Consult a lawyer for FMLA legal advice.