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Congress Tweaks FMLA to Expand Military-Related Leave Provisions

Congress recently passed the “Supporting Military Families Act of 2009″ as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010. The President has signed the defense-related legislation, which also amends those provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act providing qualifying exigency leave and covered servicemember leave for employees who are relatives of servicemembers. The amendment became effective immediately.
Changes to Qualifying Exigency Leave

Prior to the amendment, FMLA’s exigency leave provisions allowed the spouse, child, or parent of a member of the national guard or a reserve unit who is called to or on active duty up to 12 work weeks of leave during any 12-month period to deal with issues arising out of a “qualifying exigency,” but did not cover members of the regular military. The entitlement has been changed to provide that the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent must be on "covered active duty” in the Armed Forces. “Covered active duty” is a new term. In the case of a member of a regular component of the Armed Forces, it means duty during the deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country. In the case of a member of a reserve component it means duty during the deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country under a call or order to active duty.

Covered Servicemember Leave

The military caregiver leave provisions of FMLA permit the spouse, son, daughter, parent or next-of-kin of a covered servicemember to take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for an injured or ill service member. Prior to amendment, caregiver leave was available only to care for servicemembers who were still in the military. The amendments expand the leave entitlement to cover veterans who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, for a serious injury or illness and who was a member of the Armed Forces (including a member of the National Guard or Reserves) at any time during the period of five years preceding the date on which the veteran undergoes that medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy. In addition, the definition of serious injury or illness was expanded to include injuries or illnesses that existed before a service member’s active duty began and was aggravated by service in line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces. In the case of veterans, a serious injury or illness includes and injury or illness that was incurred in line of duty on active duty, or which existed before the beginning of the service member’s active duty and was aggravated by service in line of duty and that manifested itself before or after the member became a veteran.

For more information or questions, please contact Chuck Bacharach at 410-576-4169.