FMLA Coverage Expanded for Military Families

November 09, 2009

On October 28, 2009 President Obama signed into law the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes provisions expanding FMLA military family leave benefits.

The 2010 Act extends FMLA "exigency" leave coverage to family members of active duty members of the Armed Forces. The Act also expands the potential period during which FMLA caregiver leave may be provided. Eligible employees now may take FMLA caregiver leave for up to five years after the veteran ends active duty.

Under a previous expansion of FMLA in 2008, family members of individuals in the Reserves or National Guard called to active duty are entitled to leave (up to 12 weeks) for "qualifying exigencies." Under the 2010 NDAA, family members of active duty members of the Armed Forces are entitled to FMLA exigency leave under the same circumstances as family members of individuals in the Reserves or National Guard. The Department of Labor has defined "qualifying exigencies" to include the following:

Short notice deployment
Military events and related activities
Childcare and school activities
Financial and legal arrangements
Counseling
Rest and recuperation
Post-deployment activities
Other activities agreed to by the employer and the employee

The 2008 expansion of FMLA also provided covered family members with up to 26 weeks to care for injured service members. This caregiver leave failed to address employees' need to care for a veteran whose service-related injury or illness manifested itself after the individual completed active military duty. Covered family members are now eligible for 26 weeks of leave to care for veterans who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness and who were members of the Armed Forces (including the National Guard or Reserves) at any time during the five years preceding the date of treatment, therapy, or recuperation.

These expanded FMLA rights are effective immediately. You will need to amend your FMLA handbook policy to reflect these changes. Contact SESCO if have questions or need assistance with FMLA issues. We also have FMLA certification forms available, as well as our FMLA Administrative Manual. You may order these items from our website online publications store — www.sescomgt.com or by calling us at 423-764-4127.