Saturday, February 9

FMLA Regs: Military Leave Goes Mainstream

The days of patchwork state statutory control over military leave for families of soldiers may be finally coming to an end. President Bush recently signed a law that expands FMLA leave to cover family members of injured soldiers coming home from war. That, coupled with new FMLA final regulations from the Department of Labor will hopefully give veterans and servicemembers' families a better understanding of their rights, and give employers a better idea of what they can and cannot allow, without pissing off the Government.

According to the Kansas City Star, the law now gives employees up to 6 months unpaid to care for an injured family member after they get home, and will extend the standard 12-week option to situations where a "qualifying exigency" during active duty service occurs. What's a qualifying exignecy? Wouldn't you like to know. From the article:

Although the latter form of military leave won't become effective until the Secretary of Labor issues regulations defining what a qualifying exigency is, the Labor Department is urging employers to comply with the spirit of the law in the meantime. So employers should use their best judgment about doing so, and "interpret the term broadly...."

The important question in our eyes is whether mental health will be considered a qualified exigency. If not, it's a shame. I know the likelihood of abuse would shoot up, but the benefit of having a parent or sibling or child there for you as you learn to be a civilian again would be incredible. You would think it would be the least the Feds could do, since they're cutting funding for Post-Traumatice Stress treatment, which something like 1 in 7 servicemembers may be coming home with.

Finally, an interesting heads-up: FMLA provisions have always extended to spouses or children caring for family members, and the military provision includes these categories, too, but it also allows the servicemember's nearest blood relative to take off under the Act. This extra category is exclusive to the military portion - the old one is still just spouses and kids.

All the other FMLA regs are coming out, too, but nothing in them is this big (basically, employees are going to have to call and ask for it first - sorry to spoil the suprise), and I have to study for the Bar, so good night for now.

On the web: DOL's announcement/summary of proposed regs.