Additions to FMLA Proposed in Congress

Two bills were recently introduced into the United States Congress that, if passed, would have an important effect on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Taken together, they would both expand the current effect of the bill and roll back some of the restrictions that the previous administration’s had imposed on that law.

Under the FMLA, which passed into law in 1993, employers must grant a leave (unpaid) of up to twelve weeks every twelve months for certain family emergencies and other medical conditions.

The Bush administration had imposed some restrictions on the FMLA which Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) has proposed to eliminate in H.R. 2161, which she has called the Family and Medical Leave Restoration Act. The restrictions were posted in a November 2008 DOL final regulation.

The new bill proposes to reverse about seven of those regulations, including:

–Not allowing an employer to force an employee to use more FMLA leave time than necessary;

–Restoring the right to accrued paid leave and attendance bonuses while on FMLA leave;

— Restore the prohibition on an employee waiving FMLA rights without review by the DOL or a court;

— No longer forcing an employee to conform to employee leave policies prior to obtain an FMLA leave;

— Revisiting some new timelines and definitions, including the medical certification template used to decide what a “serious health condition” is.

The second proposed bill, introduced this year (and every year since 1999) by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), would allow FMLA leave to care for a domestic partner, child of a domestic partner, same-sex spouse, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent if that person has a serious health condition.

The bills are now in committee. More on them as they move through the system.