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Legal Briefs: Family Medical Leave Expanded for Military Families
Author: David Reese, PSU General Counsel
Posted: July 8, 2008
Words of Wisdom
"Good family life is never an accident but always an achievement by those who share it."

By James H.S. Bossard

On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed into law the first expansion in fifteen years of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The National Defense Authorization Act adds two new "qualifying events" to the list of events that trigger an employee's right to take family leave under FMLA.

The first new type of leave is Call to Duty Leave for military family members. Under this provision, a qualifying employee whose spouse, child or parent is called to active military service may use FMLA leave to deal with a "qualifying exigency." The U.S. Department of Labor needs to issue regulations defining "qualifying exigency" and has not yet done so. However, exigencies for which leave will need to be provided will likely include time to make arrangements necessitated by the call to duty (such as childcare), attending deployment or welcoming home ceremonies, attending pre-deployment and reintegration briefings, family support meetings, etc. Additional information will be provided to supervisors regarding Call to Duty Leave once the Department of Labor has issued its regulations. In the meantime, please contact the Office of Human Resources with questions regarding the provision of leave to employees dealing with the military call-up of a family member.

The second new type of leave is Service Member Family Leave. This new category of leave provides a significant increase in the amount of leave allowed to a family member caring for an injured veteran. Under this provision, a spouse, child, parent or next of kin may take up to 26 weeks of protected FMLA leave, rather than the standard 12 weeks of FMLA leave, to care for a member of the Armed Forces who suffers a serious injury or illness while on active duty. Such leave may be taken intermittently.

Both of these new leave provisions apply to employees with family members in the Armed Forces of the United States, which includes the National Guard and the reserves.

It is important to support our employees who are dealing with the ramifications of military call-ups in their family or caring for family members injured in the line of duty while in the Armed Forces. If you have questions regarding the applicability of these expanded FMLA rights for military family members, please contact the Office of Human Resources.