As the first law signed by President Clinton after his inauguration in February 1993 (effective in August 1993), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is now celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Prior to 1993, the United States had no national family and medical leave legislation (although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1979 required businesses offering temporary disability programs to cover pregnancy as any other disability). Its encactment allowed workers to know their jobs were safe while they tended to their own needs or the needs of their family members.
Generally, covered establishments with 50 or more employees must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to eligible employees who need leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed foster child; a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition; or the employee’s own serious health condition, including maternity-related disability and prenatal care.
The Act, through later amendments, also provides protections to allow workers with family in the military to take time away from work to attend to situations arising from a parent, spouse, son or daughter’s foreign deployment and up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a service member with a serious injury or illness. The Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, issued a final rule concurrent with the 20th Anniversary that extends the availability of qualifying leave to family members of members of the Armed Forces for qualifying exigencies arising out of the service member’s deployment; defines deployments covered under the provisions; extends qualifying military caregiver leave for family members of current service members to include injuries or illness existing prior to service but aggravated in active duty; and extends qualifying military caregiver leave to family members of certain veterans with serious injuries or illnesses.
The US Department of Labor released key findings on February 4, 2013 titled “Family and Medical Leave Act in 2012: Final Report,” contending employers generally find it easy to comply with the law, and misuse of the FMLA by workers is rare. Despite this finding, many employees and employers find they need guidance to ensure compliance with the FMLA and that their rights are protected. Additionally, disability law issues are often present but overlooked in FMLA cases. Employers or employees dealing with FMLA issues should consult with their employment attorneys to answer their questions on the administration or use of FMLA leave.
By: Justin A. Morocco