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Legislation Introduced to Revise the FMLA

Apparently, Congress isn’t done expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA.) Just a few weeks ago, two different bills were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand the scope of the Act.

FMLA Compliance Manual, including a quarterly compliance bulletin with updates on the FMLA

Specifics of proposed legislation
On April 28, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) introduced House Resolution (HR) 2132, which would amend the FMLA to permit leave to care for a domestic partner or other individual in an employee’s extended family. The following day, Representative Carol Shea-Porter (D-New Hampshire) introduced HR 2161, which would reverse certain regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that became effective January 16, 2009.

In a press release, Shea-Porter explained that the purpose of HR 2161 is to “restore the Family and Medical Leave Act to its original intent and spirit.” She added that her bill “is needed in order to reverse the most restrictive of these new regulations.” According to the press release, the bill would:

  • restore protections that prevent an employer from forcing an employee to use more incremental FMLA leave than is medically necessary;
  • reverse limitations placed on the use of accrued paid leave while on FMLA;
  • restore the prohibition on denying attendance bonuses as a consequence for taking FMLA leave;
  • restore protections prohibiting the waiving of an employee’s FMLA rights without review and approval by the DOL or the courts;
  • restore protections prohibiting an employer from approving or denying FMLA leave based on compliance or noncompliance with employer leave-request policies;
  • restore employee privacy by reversing regulations that would allow an employer to directly contact an employee’s medical provider;
  • restore previous “fitness-for-duty” certification rules for employees who take intermittent leave;
  • direct the Secretary of Labor to revise regulations under the Bush administration to revisit the new, burdensome treatment and recertification timelines imposed by the previous DOL; and
  • direct the Secretary of Labor to revise the provided medical certification template to include the definition of a “serious health condition.”

Maloney’s proposed bill, aptly named the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, would amend the FMLA to permit FMLA-eligible employees to take leave to care for a domestic partner, the child of a domestic partner, same-sex spouse, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent if that person has an FMLA-qualifying “serious health condition.”

HR Guide to Employment Law: A practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including FMLA

Where the bill stands
Both bills have been referred to the House Administration Committee, the House Education and Labor Committee, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. We will keep you updated on the status of this legislation.