The Department of Labor ("DOL") published proposed regulations to the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") on February 15, 2012, and the deadline for public comments has been extended through Monday, April 30, 2012.

The DOL introduced the proposed regulations to implement and interpret the 2009 amendments to the federal FMLA. They address three specific areas: 1) Military Family Leave; 2) Flight Crew FMLA Eligibility; and 3) the manner in which employers calculate increments of FMLA leave.

The proposed regulations include several changes in regards to Military Family Leave. First, military caregiver leave has been expanded to cover eligible employees whose family members are recent veterans (active within the past 5 years) with serious injuries or illnesses incurred in the line of active duty, where the veteran is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy. Previously, only current service members were covered.

Secondly, the definition of a serious injury or illness has been expanded to include serious injuries or illnesses that existed prior to service and were aggravated in the line of active duty.

Thirdly, private health care providers not affiliated with the Department of Defense ("DOD") or Veteran’s Affairs ("VA") have been added as authorized health care providers that may provide the necessary "serious illness or injury" certification for military caregiver leave.

Lastly, qualifying exigency leave has now been expanded to provide leave time to attend legal, financial, family, and other matters related to a family member’s military deployment, for an employee with a family member serving in Regular Armed Forces. Previously, only families of Reserve and National Guard service members were covered.

For all qualifying exigency leave the military member must now be deployed to a foreign country. Also, the amount of time an employee may take for qualifying rest and recuperation exigency leave has been increased from five (5) days to an amount of time equal to that provided to the military member, not to exceed fifteen (15) days.

The second major change states an airline flight crew employee will now meet the FMLA service eligibility requirement if he or she: 1) has worked or been paid for not less than 60% of the applicable total monthly guarantee; and 2) has worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours during the previous 12 months.

The third major change impacts the way employers calculate FMLA leave. The amendment would require employers to use the smallest increment an employer uses to track any kind of leave at any time of day. In essence employers are prohibited from requiring an employee to take more FMLA time than needed.

Be sure to submit public comments before Monday, April 30, 2012. The proposed regulations do not become effective until after the comment period, when the DOL issues a final rule.

For further discussion of the proposed regulations, please see our February 16, 2012 post:  "DOL Publishes Its Proposed Rules on Military Family Leave and Flight Crews: FMLA Forms No Longer Expired."