Senate Approves Bill Containing Family and Medical Leave Act Expansions, Sending Bill to President Obama
On October 22, 2009, the Senate approved the latest conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (H.R. 2647). The bill contains an expansion of current Family and Medical Leave provisions as applied to military-related leave. The House previously approved the conference report on October 8 by a vote of 281-146. The Senate approved the conference report by a 68-29 margin, sending H.R. 2647 to President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill.
The Family and Medical Leave Act was amended in 2008 to permit a “spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin” to take up to 26 workweeks to care for a member of the armed forces due to a serious injury or illness. The 2008 amendments also permit an employee to take leave for “any qualifying exigency” arising out of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent serving active duty. The term “qualifying exigency” covers numerous events, including issues arising from a covered military member’s short notice deployment, military events and related activities (such as office ceremonies), childcare and related activities arising from the active duty, making or updating financial or legal arrangements to cover for the family member’s absence, attending counseling, rest and recuperation arising from active duty, and any other event that the employer and the employee agree is a qualifying exigency.
H.R. 2647 expands the 2008 amendments by extending qualifying exigency leave to active duty members. The bill also extends military caregiver leave to family members of veterans who are “undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, for a serious injury or illness,” so long as the former service member was a member of the Armed Forces (including the National Guard or Reserves) at any time during the five years preceding the treatment in question. These employees are entitled to take up to 26 workweeks of leave within a single 12-month period.
In addition to its provisions expanding military-related leave, the bill also allows federal employees under the Federal Employees Retirement Security System to receive retirement credit for unused sick leave.