FMLA Expansions Signed into Law

October 29, 2009 ( - President Obama has signed legislation that expands coverage for "exigency leave" and "servicemember caregiver leave" under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The legislation, found in defense spending bill H.R. 2647, extends coverage for exigency leave to the family of all active-duty servicemembers who are deployed in a foreign country, according to Business and Legal Reports (BLR). Previously, exigency leave applied to employees with a covered family member in the National Guard or reserves only.

Employees with a family member who is either in a regular component of the Armed Forces or a reserve component of the Armed Forces will be entitled to leave because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty). Qualifying exigencies include: (1) short-notice deployment (2) military events and related activities (3) childcare and school activities (4) financial and legal arrangements (5) counseling (6) rest and recuperation (7) post-deployment activities and (8) additional activities where the employer and employee agree to the leave (see DoL to Publish Final FMLA Regs ).

In addition, BLR reports, the new bill extends coverage of “servicemember caregiver leave” to include caring for a veteran who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, for a serious injury or illness and who was a member of the Armed Forces (including a member of the National Guard or Reserves) at any time during the period of five years preceding the date on which the veteran undergoes that medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy. In other words, the caregiver would be able to take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a veteran for up to five years after he or she leaves military service if the veteran suffered a qualifying injury or illness in the line of active duty (or had an existing injury or illness aggravated in the line of active duty), BLR explained.