Amendments to Family and Medical Leave Act Demand Contribution by Employers to War Effort
President Bush has signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which amends the Family and Medical Leave Act to add provisions relating to service members and their families. This Act was vetoed twice previously due to its attachment to bills with other provisions the President did not favor. Employers are required to accept the burden of supporting the armed services by allowing unpaid leave for the family members of service personnel when justified by a connection to their service. This represents one of the few occasions since September 11, 2001 in which the civilian world has been asked to share the burden of military operations.
The amendments, which apply only to employers already covered by the other provisions of the FMLA, create two new categories of leave entitlement. The first is for “exigencies” that occur when a family member of the employee is called to active duty. As such, it imposes no change in regard to employees whose family member is a member of the active components of the armed services but, since the Reserves and National Guard now constitute such a large portion of the ongoing deployments, will have a significant impact on the number of employees entitled to leave. “Exigencies” are specific, formally structured events, including pre-deployment and post-deployment meetings, teacher conferences, childcare and financial planning appointments and other similar meetings, and reunion and reintegration periods. The amount of leave remains the same 12 weeks, which can be taken intermittently, allowed for serious health conditions under the original FMLA. This change will take effect only after the Department of Labor issues final regulations for its implementation.
The second category of leave under the amendments allows for a full 26 weeks of unpaid leave. This is a one-time only allowance, to be taken in one twelve-month period, to care for a service member who became sick or injured while on active service in the military. Although casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan have been low compared to many previous wars, the number of wounded is far greater, in proportion to the number killed. The demand for leave under this provision may also become quite noticeable, and this portion of the amendment became effective on January 28, 2008, the day the President signed it.
Since what is referred to as the Global War on Terror started, there has been an increasing area of disconnection between the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that fight the war, on the one hand, and the civilians who have been urged to continue with business as usual. As uniformed military members and their families often say, “the Army and Marine Corps went to war, and America went to the mall.” With the imposition of a small amount of obligation on the employers and co-workers of service families, there will now be some increase in the overall consciousness of what these people do for the rest of us.
The following article is informational only and not intended as legal advice. Speak with a licensed attorney about your own specific situation. © Copyright 2011 MacElree Harvey, Ltd. All rights reserved.