• Expanded FMLA Rights for Military Families
  • November 4, 2009
  • Law Firm: Leonard, Street and Deinard, Professional Association - Office
  • On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed into law the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) related to the leave available for military family members.

    The NDAA makes qualifying exigency leave available for more military family members. Specifically, qualifying exigency leave is now available to families of those deployed to a foreign country on active duty in the regular Armed Forces, as well as those in the National Guard and Reserves. As we discussed in a December 2008 Alert, qualifying exigency leave is intended to help military families manage the covered service members' affairs when they are called to active duty status and includes such circumstances as short-notice deployment, military events and related activities, child care and school activities, financial and legal arrangements, counseling, rest and recuperation, post-deployment activities, and any additional activities agreed to by the employer and the employee.

    The military caregiver leave provision has also been expanded. FMLA-eligible employees will now be eligible to take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave to care for a veteran suffering from a service-related injury or illness, so long as the veteran's service in the regular Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves occurred within five years of the date of care. Previously, military caregiver leave was only available to care for current members of the Armed Forces, Guard or Reserves, which meant that FMLA leave was not available to address a service-related injury or illness that did not manifest itself during the period of military service. Military caregiver leave will also be available in situations where a covered service member has aggravated an existing or preexisting injury in the line of duty while on active duty, whereas the FMLA previously only covered serious injuries or illnesses incurred in the line of duty while on active duty.

    Various federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor, are charged with developing regulations to implement the amendments. Because these changes are effective immediately, however, employers should update their FMLA policies and practices to address these expanded leave rights.