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October 29, 2009
Obama Signs FMLA Expansion

President Obama has signed legislation that expands coverage of “exigency leave” and “servicemember caregiver leave” under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

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The new law (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010--HR 2647) extends coverage for exigency leave to the family of all active-duty servicemembers who are deployed in a foreign country.

Therefore, 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)" in a foreign country. Before the new legislation, exigency leave applied to employees with a covered family member in the National Guard or reserves only.

The legislation also 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 5 years preceding the date on which the veteran undergoes that medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy.

Therefore, 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). Under the legislation, the injury or illness could manifest itself before or after the member became a veteran.

The National Defense Authorization Act is effective now. While it's unclear when the Department of Labor will start enforcing the revised FMLA, employers should begin to make changes immediately to comply with the new law.

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