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Two important changes to FMLA
There have been two important amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act this fall.
First, in late October President Obama signed amendments to the FMLA that expand the rights of families of injured and active-duty servicemembers to take time off from work. The amendments, which were included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-084), make the following changes to the FMLA:
* Extend to injured veterans’ families the right to take "servicemember family leave." The FMLA previously made available leave to care for an injured servicemember only to families of current servicemembers.
* Override Department of Labor regulations that limit access to leave because of an exigency arising out of a servicemember's active duty to families of members of the reserves and National Guard. The amendments make such "exigency leave" leave available as well to families of soldiers in the regular components of the armed forces who are deployed to a foreign country.
* Make "exigency leave" available not just when a servicemember is deployed in support of a contingency operation, but also when a servicemember is deployed to a foreign country regardless of whether the deployment is in support of a contingency operation. Deployments not in support of a contingency operation did not previously trigger the right to exigency leave.
Second, Congress passed the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act to allow airline crews to qualify for FMLA. Because of the way flight crewmembers' work is scheduled and paid, full-time flight attendants and pilots generally do not meet the FMLA's minimum eligibility threshold of 1,250 hours worked in a year. This act changes the amount of time a crew member must work to qualify for FMLA leave.
"One sick child away from being fired"
The Center for Work Life Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law recently released a report on the problems families have with conflicts between working and caring for their families. The report, ONE SICK CHILD AWAY FROM BEING FIRED, by Prof. Joan C. Williams begins:
Professional women are not the only Americans whose jobs are in jeopardy because of work/family conflict. This report discusses a study of 99 union arbitrations that provide a unique window into how work and family responsibilities clash in the lives of bus drivers, telephone workers, construction linemen, nurses aides, carpenters,welders, janitors, and others — men as well as women — in working-class jobs.
The media tends to cover work/family conflict as the story of professional mothers “opting out” of fast-track careers. Surveys confirm that working class Americans feel work/family conflict acutely: two-thirds of unionized fathers said they were unhappy with the amount of time they dedicated to their children; half of the mothers agreed. The arbitrations communicate the stories of Americans caught between inflexible jobs, lack of resources, and their commitment to do right by their families.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is supposed to help in situations such as those covered in the report. For more information on the FMLA, go to my Employee Rights Information Center.