Congress Expands FMLA Leave for Military Duty and Injuries

Congress passed legislation last week which, if signed by President Bush as expected, will amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for the first time since its passage in 1993. The amendment will require that covered employers grant FMLA leave to employees to care for family members injured in military service or to handle “exigencies” related to a family member’s military call-up or service.

The FMLA will continue to apply only to employers who employ at least 50 or more employees each working day in 20 or more workweeks of the current or previous calendar year.

Employees who are called to or enlist for nearly all forms of military service are already entitled to up to 5 years of protected leave from their jobs, as well as reinstatement rights, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA includes provisions that dictate the position to which the employee returning from leave must be reinstated, how to accommodate employees returning with battlefield injuries, and other related issues. The new FMLA amendments now address leave requirements for employees who themselves are not called to serve, but rather are family members of those who are.

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