The DOL recently issued its final regulations regarding expansion of military caregiver and qualifying exigency leave and regulations affecting flight crews. These new rules take effect this Friday, March 8. We covered these rules when they were initially proposed by the DOL. The rules issued in their final form are consistent with our previous summary, and the official commentary and final rules can be accessed here.

The updated forms are available here, and the updated poster is available here.

What are the changes?

Most employers will need to be concerned only with the changes to leave available for military family members, and should review their FMLA policies and practices to ensure compliance with these new rules. Employees may take leave to care for the injuries of veterans who have left service within the past five years. Leave is also available for injuries that preexisted military service but were aggravated in the line of duty. (Before, employees could only take leave for current servicemembers whose injury occurred in the line of duty in the first instance.) Qualifying exigency leave has also been expanded, allowing leave for employees whose qualifying family members serve in the regular Armed Forces as well as the National Guard and Reserves, requiring in both cases a foreign deployment. Qualifying exigency leave is also expanded to 15 days for qualifying family members of servicemembers on rest and recuperation leave.

As mentioned in our previous summary, the DOL’s rules also incorporate new eligibility and recordkeeping requirements for airline flight crew members, which should be closely reviewed by affected employers.

What do employers need to know about the FMLA forms and poster?

As part of its final rule issuance, the DOL also updated its FMLA model forms regarding military family leave and required poster to be used starting March 8, 2013. Although employers are not required to use the DOL’s forms, many employers do. (However, if you use the DOL’s forms, we recommend you add GINA "safe harbor" language.)

All FMLA-covered employers must post the DOL’s FMLA poster in a conspicuous place. Covered employers who also have FMLA-eligible employees must also provide a copy of the FMLA poster to employees as part of the employee handbook or in a handout provided to employees upon hire.

Leigh Anne Benedic