On February 5, 2013, the United States Department of Labor ("DOL") marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") by issuing a Final Rule to implement two important expansions of FMLA protections, benefiting military families and airline flight crews. Several of the changes go into effect on March 8, 2013.

The Final Rule:

●  Defines a covered veteran as those veterans discharged or released, under conditions other than dishonorable, within five years prior to the date the employee’s military caregiver leave begins;

●  Expands the definition of serious injury or illness for current service members to include preexisting conditions aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty;

●  Defines a serious injury or illness for a covered veteran as an illness or injury that was incurred by the veteran in the line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces or that existed before the veteran’s active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty, and that manifested before or after becoming a veteran, and that meets one of four alternative definitions;

●  Allows eligible workers to take up to a total of 26 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected, leave to care for current service members and covered veterans with a serious injury or illness;

●  Extends qualifying exigency leave to eligible employees with a spouse, child or parent in the Regular Armed Forces on covered active duty, in addition to the National Guard and Reserves;

●   Includes a foreign country deployment requirement in the definition of covered active duty for members of the Regular Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserves;

●  Adds a new category of qualifying exigency leave for certain activities related to the care of a military member’s parent who is incapable of self-care where those activities arise from the military member’s covered active duty;

●  Increases the number of days that an eligible employee may spend with his or her military family member during the military member’s Rest and Recuperation leave from five to fifteen calendar days; 

●  Expands the list of health care providers who can provide a medical certification to support FMLA military caregiver leave to include healthcare providers who are not affiliated with the military; and

●  Establishes special hours of service eligibility for airline flight crew members and flight attendants reflecting the unique scheduling requirements of the airline industry.

In conjunction with the Final Rule, the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of DOL has updated its FMLA poster. Covered employers (in general, all public employers and private employers with 50 or more employees) are required to display and keep displayed a poster prepared by the Department of Labor summarizing the major provisions of the FMLA and how to file a complaint. The poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place, at all locations, where employees and applicants for employment can see it. 

Employers may use the new poster, with a revision date of February 2013, immediately or may use the old FMLA poster through March 7. The new poster may be downloaded, at no cost, from the DOL’s website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmlaen.pdf.

Sophie E. Zdatny, Esq., Employment Law Group