Sep 16, 2009

Proposed Amendments to the FMLA

Recently, U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and 34 co-sponsors, introduced the Balancing Act of 2009 (H.R. 3047). The “Balancing Act” appears to address the recent 2009 changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) that many opponents deemed “too employer friendly.” Thus, as proposed, the Balancing Act incorporates the various separate pending legislative proposals to alter the FMLA. If passed, this bill could have significant implications for employers and employees alike.

Proposed Conversion to Paid Leave: The legislation would create a federal program to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each 12-month FMLA leave year for the birth, adoption, foster care placement of a child, in order for the employee to care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner grandchild, grandparent, or sibling, for qualifying exigency leave, and for military caregiver leave. The benefit is based on a percentage of the employee’s annual income. There is the addition of coverage for domestic partners, grandchildren, grandparents, and siblings, but in-laws continue to be left out of the expansion. It allows for the administrating agency to require the employee to provide certification in support of the request for benefits (pay) from the program. A federal “Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund” would be established to finance paid leave distributions. Based upon similar models that have already been implemented in California and New Jersey, employers and employees would jointly subsidize the trust fund by contributing a premium of 0.2 percent of the employees’ earnings.

Proposed Expansions – New Forms of Leave: The proposed amendments create two new forms of protected leave (1) “parental involvement” and (2) “family wellness.” Parental-involvement leave would allow eligible employees to take up to 4 hours a month and up to 24 hours of leave during a 12-month leave year to participate in certain academic and extracurricular activities of their children and grandchildren. “Family wellness” leave would enable employees to assist family members in attending medical appointments and to care for elderly relatives.

Additional Proposals Would:

  1. require employers to permit employees to earn up to 56 hours of paid sick leave including paid time for family care. Unused paid sick time would carry over from one year to the next. An employee who is separated from employment and is rehired within 12 months from separation would be entitled to have his or her previously earned paid sick time reinstated.

  2. allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave during a 12-month leave year in order to care for the family member of the employee who is handling issues relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or their effects.

  3. allow leave to care for a broader category of family members: spouse, same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent, son or daughter (including adult children), and children of domestic partners.

Finally, the Balancing Act would expand the coverage to employers with 15 or more employees. The bill would also extend eligibility to certain part-time employees who work 1,050 or more hours per year.

The [Employment Practice Group](Recently, U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and 34 co-sponsors, introduced the Balancing Act of 2009 (H.R. 3047). The “Balancing Act” appears to address the recent 2009 changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) that many opponents deemed “too employer friendly.” Thus, as proposed, the Balancing Act incorporates the various separate pending legislative proposals to alter the FMLA. If passed, this bill could have significant implications for employers and employees alike.) at SGR will continue to monitor this important bill and will provide you with updates.


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