Are FMLA Changes on the Horizon for New York and New Jersey Employers?

February 15, 2012
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The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement new statutory amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act. The amendments, which date back to 2009, expand military family leave provisions and incorporate a special eligibility provision for airline flight crew employees. As New York and New Jersey employers should be aware, the FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers (all public agencies and private-sector employers who employ 50 or more employees) to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. As outlined by the DOL, the major provisions of the proposed rulemaking include:
  • The extension of military caregiver leave to eligible family members of covered veterans with a serious injury or illness;
  • A flexible, three part definition for serious injury or illness of a veteran;
  • The extension of military caregiver leave to cover serious injuries or illnesses that result from the aggravation during military service of a preexisting condition for both current service members and veterans;
  • The extension of qualifying exigency leave to eligible family members of members of the Regular Armed Forces;
  • Inclusion of a foreign deployment requirement for qualifying exigency leave for the deployment of all service members (National Guard, Reserves, Regular Armed Forces);
  • The addition of a special hours of service eligibility requirement for airline flight crew employees; and
  • The addition of specific provisions for calculating the amount of FMLA leave used by airline flight crew employees.
Of particular note, the proposed language would extend military caregiver leave to family members of veterans for up to five years after leaving the military. The FMLA currently only covers family members of “currently serving” service members. In addition, the new rules expand the military family leave provisions of the FMLA by extending qualifying exigency leave to employees whose family members serve in the regular armed forces. Currently, the law only applies to families of National Guard members and reservists. As the FMLA continues to evolve and expand, it often presents compliance problems for employers. Therefore, we encourage you contact our experienced New York and New Jersey employment attorneys to find out how these new changes may impact your workplace.