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February 08, 2008
New FMLA Rules to Be Proposed February 11

The U.S. Department of Labor says it will publish a proposal on February 11 to update its regulations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

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The department says that the proposal would help workers and their employers better understand their rights and responsibilities, and speed the implementation of a new law that expands FMLA coverage for certain military family members.

"This proposal preserves workers' family and medical leave rights while improving the administration of FMLA by fostering better communication in the workplace," says Victoria A. Lipnic, assistant secretary for the Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration.  "It also implements a law President Bush recently signed to extend family and medical leave to families of America's soldiers who are suffering serious illness or injury."

Proposed changes include increased notice obligations for employers so that employees will better understand their FMLA rights, while revising the employee notice rules to minimize workplace disruptions due to unscheduled FMLA absences.

The department says the proposal will also contain technical changes to reflect decisions by the Supreme Court and lower courts. A new section addresses recently enacted legislation to expand the FMLA entitlement to 26 workweeks for certain military family members caring for a service member with a serious illness or injury.

For years, employers have been lobbying for changes to FMLA rules and waiting for the department to publish revised regulations. In December 2006, the department did publish a Request for Information, seeking comments about on a series of questions covering intermittent FMLA leave, the definition of "eligible employee" under FMLA, the definition of "serious health condition" under FMLA, leave determinations/medical certifications, and other FMLA topics.

The department released a report in June 2007 based on the more than 15,000 comments it received, saying the comments highlight that unscheduled intermittent leave is the single most serious area of friction between employers and workers.

"It's time to update these regulations--to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren't contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995," said Lipnic. "This proposal is the result of a thoughtful, careful process that included a Request for Information with 15,000 public comments in 2006, many conversations with stakeholders, and the department's experience in administering and enforcing the law."

The department invites comment on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will be published in the Federal Register on February 11.

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