DoL Proposes FMLA Changes

January 28, 2008 ( - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has submitted a set of proposed revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Victoria A. Lipnic, assistant labor secretary for the Employment Standards Administration, told reporters the proposal addresses issues such as medical certification for leave requests, waivers and notification of FMLA rights, and guidelines for when approved leave begins.

Employer advocacy groups have hoped the revisions would deal with issues such as the definition of “serious health condition” – the current broad interpretation of the term creates administrative headaches for employers, SHRM said – and problems with tracking incremental leave. A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found nearly 40% of HR professionals said confusion over implementation of the FMLA has led to leave being granted in error (See Employers Report Confusion over Implementation of FMLA ).

Worker advocacy groups support increased leave protections and are concerned that any changes to the regulations might be an attempt to restrict employee rights under the law.

Comments received by the DoL on the FMLA indicated employees are concerned about the time and cost of visits to health care providers to obtain medical certifications and the potential for invasion of their privacy, while employers said they seek predictability in attendance and are frustrated with medical certifications that do not provide meaningful guidance (See FMLA Creates Concern over Business Management and Attendance ).

The OMB has 90 days to review the rule changes and then has the options of releasing the proposed changes for publication in the Federal Register or sending the proposal back to the DoL for corrections or revisions.

Last week, Congress passed a measure to extend FMLA protections to some family members and caregivers of U.S. soldiers (See FMLA Expansion for Military Family Headed to White House Again ). Congress is also considering expanding FMLA coverage to smaller businesses (less than 50 employees) and requiring employers to offer paid sick leave benefits, the news report said.