DOL issues final rule on FMLA expansions

On February 4, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule implementing two expansions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The rule was issued to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Act.

One of the expansions provides families of eligible veterans with the same FMLA-protected leave available to families of military servicemembers. It also provides leave to more military families for activities that come up when a current servicemember is deployed.

The second expansion clarifies how the FMLA applies to airline personnel and flight crews since those employees work in an industry with a unique system of setting work hours. The new rule explains how to calculate the required number of hours airline employees must work in a 12-month period to be eligible for FMLA leave.

The DOL has posted on its website the major provisions of the final rule, which include the following:

  • Covered veterans are defined as those who were discharged or released under other-than-dishonorable conditions five years before the employee’s military caregiver leave begins.
  • The rule creates a flexible definition for serious injury or illness of a covered veteran. Just one of four alternatives must be met.
  • Eligible employees are permitted to obtain certification of a servicemember’s serious injury or illness (both current servicemembers and veterans) from any healthcare provider as defined in the FMLA regulations, not just providers affiliated with the military.
  • Qualifying exigency leave is extended to eligible employees who are family members of servicemembers of the regular armed forces, not just servicemembers in the National Guard and reserves. Also, all military servicemembers must be deployed to a foreign country to be on “covered active duty” under the Act.
  • The rule increases from five to 15 days the amount of time an employee may take for qualifying exigency leave for a servicemember’s rest and recuperation.
  • Another qualifying exigency leave category is created for parental care leave to provide care necessitated by the covered active duty of a military member whose parent is incapable of self-care.
  • The rule incorporates hours-of-service eligibility requirements for airline flight crew employees to be eligible for FMLA leave.
  • The rule creates a method for calculating leave for airline flight crew employees and establishes that FMLA-protected intermittent or reduced-schedule leave taken by airline flight crew employees must be accounted for using an increment no greater than one day.

Military caregiver leave for a veteran won’t be available until March 8, 2013.

“Enabling our military families to care for their loved ones without fear of losing their job and to actively participate in deployment, reunification, and recovery reflects our deeper understanding of the role family members have in sustaining an all-volunteer force,” acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris said of the new rule.

For more information, visit