The Family and Medical Leave Act has undergone yet another expansion. On October 27, 2009, President Obama signed H.R. 2647, known as the "Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.” This new law comes on the heels of new FMLA rights that were just drafted at the end of 2008 for employees with family members serving in the military. 

As we described at the time in 2008 Final Regulations for the FMLA:  A Summary, the FMLA military leave provision effective at the beginning of 2009 originally extended the following protections:


(a) up to 12 weeks of leave for families of National Guard and Reserve personnel on active duty in order to manage activities associated with such service, known as “qualifying exigencies,” and 


(b) up to 26 weeks of leave for employees needed to care for family members in the military with a “serious injury or illness” that was incurred in the line of duty.


The new law expands both of these protections: 


(a) The 12-week “qualifying exigency” leave now applies to employees whose spouses, children or parents are on “regular” active military duty (i.e., not just National Guard and Reserve personnel) and are deployed to a foreign country. The prior language of the statute was ambiguous as to protection for families of regular military personnel.


(b)  Likewise, the 26-week “caregiver” leave now expressly extends to employees whose family members or next of kin have been discharged from the military (i.e., veterans) within five years before the need for treatment of a serious injury or illness. “Serious injury and illness” is now defined by the statute to include instances where a preexisting impairment merely has been aggravated by military service. 


These expansions of the FMLA went into effect upon signing. It seems likely that the U.S. Department of Labor will promulgate yet another set of recommended forms to cover these new circumstances in the near future. We will continue to monitor the issue and keep readers informed.