Sunday, July 6, 2008

Changes in FMLA Leave for Military Families

On January 28, President Bush signed a new law that provides two types of leave related to military service under amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993.

Under the new law, an eligible employee can take up to 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period to care for a spouse, child, parent, or next-of-kin who is a service member with a "serious illness or injury" (the specifications for this are defined in the new law) incurred while on active duty.

It also permits eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period for "any qualifying exigency" that arises from a spouse's, child's, or parent's active duty in the Armed Forces. The Department of Labor will be issuing guidelines as to what a "qualifying exigency" encompasses.

The changes to the FMLA law are in addition to the existing reasons why an eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave each year. These include:
  • The birth of a child (and to care for such child)
  • The placement of a child for adoption or foster care
  • Caring for a spouse or immediate family member with a "serious health condition"
  • Where an employee has a serious health condition such that they are unable to work
The amendments complement many state family military leave laws that provide for shorter durations of leave or only cover spouses of service members. For example, Nebraska law requires that any employer that employs between 15-50 people must provide up to 15 days of unpaid family military leave for spouses and parents of service members, and up to 30 days for employers with more than 50 employees.

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