DOL Issues Proposed Regulations Expanding FMLA’s Military Caregiver Leave and Other Provisions
The Department of Labor this week announced proposed regulations that would expand the military caregiver leave provisions of the FMLA, and also create special rules for FMLA eligibility for airline flight crew employees. The proposed regulations would implement amendments to the FMLA set forth in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The proposed regulations set forth the following changes to current FMLA leave provisions:
Military Caregiver Leave
According to the DOL, “The proposed regulations would extend the entitlement of military caregiver leave to family members of veterans for up to five years after leaving the military. At this time, the law only covers family members of ‘currently serving’ service members.”
The proposed regulations would also 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 covers families of National Guard members and reservists.
The DOL’s proposed regulations also contemplate other changes to the military caregiver leave provisions, including that qualifying exigency requires the service member to be deployed in a foreign country. The regulations would also expand the definition of “serious injury or illness” to include conditions that existed prior to military service but were aggravated by military service.
Airline Flight Crew Employees
According to the DOL, the proposed regulations would make the benefits of the FMLA more accessible to airline flight crew employees by adding a special hours of service eligibility requirement for them and specific provisions for calculating the amount of FMLA leave used, in consideration of the “unique and often difficult to track” hours worked by crew members. Specifically, airline flight crew employees who have worked or been paid for not less than 60 percent of the applicable total monthly guarantee and worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours (not including personal commute time or time spent on vacation, medical, or sick leave) during the previous 12 months satisfy the hours of service eligibility requirement for FMLA.
So, do employers need to worry about any of these changes now? According to the DOL, yes. Some of the changes technically are already in effect by virtue of the passage of the NDAA. The extension of qualifying exigency leave to employee’s whose covered service member is in the Regular Armed Services is in effect. Additionally, the new requirement for qualifying exigency leave that the service member be deployed in a foreign country is in effect. Finally, the expanded definition of “serious illness or injury” to include aggravations of pre-existing conditions, is currently in effect. According to the DOL, the only military caregiver leave change not yet in effect (until the proposed rules are approved and implemented) is the extension of caregiver leave for veterans as opposed to current service members.
As for the FMLA changes pertaining to airline flight crew employees, the DOL is taking the position that these changes are also effective now, per the passage of the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTA).
We will keep you posted as to developments with these proposed regulations. In the meantime, employers will want to review their policies and procedures for compliance.