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Expanded FMLA Guidelines Protect Military, Airline Employees

GWEN SNYDER
HNI Account Executive

Important expansions to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) now provide increased protections for military families and members of airline flight crews.

Under expanded FMLA guidelines, more current and former service members will be eligible for FMLA leave. The new rules also addresses flight crews. The updated regulations set hours of service requirements, explain how to calculate FMLA leave, and require recordkeeping for flight crew members.FMLAMilitary

Family and Medical Leave Act Benefits

The expanded FMLA guidelines allow workers to attend a spouse’s send-off and welcome home events. Employees also can spend time with family members on leave from military service without risking their jobs.

The expansions are designed to give military families the right to take unpaid leave under the FMLA without risking being penalized at work. Under the expanded regulations, eligible workers may take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a current service member with a serious injury or illness.

In addition, these employees are allowed up to 12 weeks of "exigency leave" to support deployed active duty members. This 12 weeks can be used for things like attending farewell and welcome home ceremonies and spending time with family members on leave from active duty service.

The expansions also change existing regulations so that airline flight crew members can use FMLA protections. This “[ensures] that pilots and flight crews will no longer need to choose between career and caring for a loved one," acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris said.

What’s Changed for FMLA Rules

Following is a glance at the expanded FMLA guidelines:

  • “Covered military member” now is “military member” and includes both members of the National Guard and Reserves and the regular armed forces.
  • Covered active duty requires deployment to a foreign country.
  • A leave category for parental care leave has been added. It includes providing care on an immediate need basis and attending meetings with staff at a care facility.
  • The definition of covered service member is expanded to include injured and ill veterans who are undergoing medical treatment.
  • The definition of a serious injury or illness for a current service member is expanded to include any illness before active duty that was aggravated by active duty. A similar policy is in place for covered veterans.
  • Qualifying leave now can be approved with rest and recuperation orders.
  • Military caregiver leave can be certified by health care providers outside government (vs. Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, or TRICARE affiliates).
  • Certification for military caregiver leave is expanded to include covered veterans.
  • All periods of absence because of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA) service now is counted in determining an employee’s FMLA leave eligibility.
  • An employee can’t be forced to take more leave than necessary.
  • FMLA leave may only be counted against an employee’s FMLA entitlement for leave taken and not for time that’s worked for the employer.
  • Employees must take FMLA leave with the smallest increment of time used for other forms of leave.
  • For airline flight crew employees, the expansions set hours of service; explain how to calculate leave for military leave and for reasons other than military leave; and establish that employers must maintain certain records, including collective bargaining agreements.
  • Airline flight crew employers must comply with the confidentiality requirements of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA).

The expanded FMLA rules ensure leave for service members and their families to deal with the challenges of military life. Take these changes into account when administering leave for employees in the Reserves or with military family members. Click here to view a side-by-side comparison of the 2008 FMLA regulations and the 2013 updates.

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Topics: HR / Employee Benefits