The Employer's Legal Resource: Proposed Bill to Amend FMLA Introduced

03.03.14

A proposed house bill, HR 3999, amending the federal Family and Medical Leave Act was introduced on February 5, 2014 by New York Representative Carolyn Mooney.  The bill, which was introduced on the 21st anniversary of President Clinton’s signing of FMLA into law, would drastically alter which employers are covered and what types of leave are available to employees. 

The bill would amend the FMLA to cover employers with 25 or more employees.  Currently, the FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees working within a 75 mile radius.  The proposed bill does not alter eligible employee status. Accordingly, employees would still be required to have been employed for 12 months and to have worked 1250 hours during the previous year to be eligible for leave.

Notably, the proposed amendments would provide FMLA leave for non-medical reasons.  The bill provides for “parental involvement” leave allowing leave for employees to attend or participate in activities sponsored by a school or community organization that that the employee’s son, daughter, or grandchild attends.  Accordingly, the employee would be entitled to leave to attend a child’s school activities such as Halloween parades or football games.  The bill also provides for “family wellness” leave which would allow employees leave to attend to the routine family medical care needs, including medical and dental appointments of an employee’s son, daughter, spouse, or grandchild, or to attend to the care needs of elderly relatives, including visits to nursing homes and group homes.

The bill would allow employees up to four hours of parental involvement or family wellness leave during a 30-day period and up to 24 hours in a 12-month period.  Under the amendments, employees could elect, or the employer could require the employee to, substitute any accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave, or family leave.  In the case of family wellness leave, employees would also be permitted to elect, and employers could require, substitution of accrued medical or sick leave.  However, employers would not be required to provide any paid medical or paid sick leave for circumstances under which they would not normally provide such paid leave.

Employees would be required to give their employer at least 7 days’ notice of their intention to take parental involvement or family wellness leave.  Employees would be required to “make a reasonable effort” to schedule the family wellness leave so to avoid unduly disrupting the employer’s operations.

HR 3999 is not the only proposed bill to amend the FMLA.  In December, Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the FAMILY Act which would provide employees who qualify for FMLA leave with 66 percent of their monthly income for 12 weeks.  The FAMILY Act would cover all employees and employers regardless of size, part-time status or length of employment.  Furthermore, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called for the introduction of legislation providing for paid medical and family leave.  Certainly, there is a strong push to provide for paid protected leave for employees dealing with family and health issues.  We will keep you updated on the status of and proposed legislation amending the FMLA.

For any questions about employee leave, please contact our labor and employment group.

By Kenneth T. Short, kshort@dsda.com

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Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca represents clients primarily in labor and employment litigation and counsels clients regarding everyday employment matters. 

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