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Washington Labor & Employment Wire » FMLA

House Passes the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (S. 1422)

On December 2, 2009, the House passed the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (S. 1422) by voice vote.  This legislation amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (”FMLA”) to expand protection for airline flight crews. The bill clarifies that flight crews should be credited for all hours, not just hours spend during flight, when determining whether they have met the threshold for FMLA qualification. The FMLA provides employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours or 60 percent of a full-time work schedule in the previous year up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical reasons. 

The bill was passed in the Senate on November 10, 2009 and now will be presented to President Obama. An almost identical bill (H.R. 912) passed in the House on February 9, 2009.


Pandemic Protection for Workers, Families, and Businesses Act (H.R. 4092)


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Core Provisions: This legislation would guarantee up to seven days of paid sick leave for full-time workers infected by a contagious illness, such as the H1N1 virus. Part-time workers would be eligible for paid leave for a number of days or hours to be determined under a formula specified by the Secretary of Labor. The bill provides that employees may use the paid leave for their own contagious illness, or to care for a child with a contagious illness.

Employers who already provide employees with seven days of paid leave that may be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as those specified in the bill would not be required to provide additional paid sick leave under the new legislation. The bill also includes an anti-retaliation provision and creates a private right of action for individuals against employers who interfere with the rights provided under the legislation.

Status: Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) introduced H.R. 4092 on November 17, 2009, and it was referred to the Committees on Education and Labor; House Administration; and Oversight and Government Reform. Sen. Dodd (D-CT) introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 2790), and it was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.


Senate Passes the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (S. 1422)

On November 10, 2009, the Senate passed the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (S. 1422) by unanimous consent. This legislation will amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (”FMLA”) to expand protection for airline flight crews. The legislation clarifies that flight crews should be credited for all hours, not just hours spent during flight, when determining whether they have met the threshold for FMLA qualification. The FMLA provides employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours or 60 percent of a full-time work schedule in the previous year up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical reasons.

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash).  An almost identical bill (H.R. 912) passed in the House on Feb. 9, 2009.


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.


Military Family Leave Act of 2009 (S. 1441)

Core provisions:  This Act would entitle employees to two weeks of leave per 12-month period for each family member of the employee who is in the military and either receives notification of an impending call or order to active duty or is deployed in connection with a contingency operation. The Act would apply to spouses, children, or parents of members of the military.  The leave could be taken intermittently or all at once.  The employer may permit, but not require, the employee to use paid leave during the two-week period. To the extent an employer does not otherwise grant its employees a full two weeks of paid leave, the remaining leave could be taken as unpaid leave. An employer may require an employee to provide certification of the family member’s military situation in a timely manner. Upon return from leave, employees are entitled to be restored to their prior position or an equivalent position with equivalent rights and benefits of employment. The Act would make unlawful an employer’s attempt to discriminate against an employee for exercising rights under this Act, or interfere with, restrain, or deny the employee permitted leave. 

Status:  The bill was introduced in the Senate on July 10, 2009, by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.


Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (S. 1422)

Core provisions:  This legislation would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (”FMLA”) to include airline flight crews, a group of employees currently excluded from coverage. Airline flight crews currently do not qualify for coverage under the FMLA, which provides employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours or 60 percent of a full-time work schedule in the previous year up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical reasons. The bill would clarify that flight crews should be credited for all hours, not just hours spent during flight, when determining whether they have met the threshold for FMLA qualification.   

Status:  The bill was introduced on July 9, 2009 by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jim Webb (D-Va.), Sue Collins (R-Maine), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and Christopher Bond (R-Mo.).  A similar bill (H.R. 912) passed in the house on Feb. 9, 2009.


Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009 (H.R. 626)

Core Provisions: This legislation provides for four weeks of paid leave for federal employees in connection with the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care. Specifically, the bill provides that for any of the twelve weeks of leave an employee is entitled to for these purposes, a federal employee may substitute four weeks of paid parental leave and any accumulated annual or sick leave.

The bill also authorizes the Director of Personnel Management to promulgate regulations to increase the amount of paid parental leave to a total of eight weeks based on the consideration of (1) the benefits provided to the federal government of offering increased leave, including enhanced recruitment and retention; (2) the cost to the federal government; (3) trends in the private sector; (4) the federal government’s role as a model employer; and (5) the impact of increased paid leave on lower-income and economically disadvantaged employees and their children.

Status: H.R. 626 was introduced by Rep. Maloney (D-NY) on January 22, 2009 and passed the House on June 4, 2009 by a vote of 258-154.


Domestic Violence Leave Act (H.R. 2515)

Core Provisions: This legislation would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow employees to take leave to address domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and their effects. Employees could also take leave under the Act to care for a family member addressing these issues. The bill defines “addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and their effects” broadly to include seeking medical attention or legal assistance related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; attending support groups; obtaining psychological counseling; participating in safety planning; and participating in any other activity which must be undertaken during hours of employment and is necessitated by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The bill would also include same-sex spouses and domestic partners under the Act.

Status: H.R. 2515 was introduced by Rep. Woolsey (D-CA) on May 20, 2009 and referred to the committees on Education and Labor; Oversight and Government Reform; and Administration.


Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009 (H.R. 1723)

Core Provisions: This legislation would create a federal insurance fund to provide employees with twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave. The fund, established and administered by the Secretary of Labor, would provide benefits for employees taking leave (1) because of a serious health condition; (2) upon the birth or adoption of a child; (3) to care for a family member with a serious health condition; (4) for any qualifying emergency arising from the fact that a spouse, child, or parent of the employee is on active military duty; or (5) to care for a family member who is a covered service member. Under the benefits proposal, most employees would contribute 0.2 percent of their annual earnings, and employers would match employee payments. Benefit amounts would be tiered progressively according to income level and indexed for inflation under the Social Security wage index. The bill would allow employers with an equivalent or better paid-leave plan to opt out of participating in the insurance fund.

The legislation also prohibits employers from interference, discrimination, or retaliation concerning an employee’s exercise of rights under the act, and would give employees a corresponding private right of action. The Secretary of Labor would have investigative authority and would be authorized to bring an administrative or civil action. The bill also provides criminal penalties for knowingly submitting or helping another to submit a false certification in order to fraudulently collect benefits.    

Status: H.R. 1723 was introduced by Rep. Stark (D-CA) on March 25, 2009 and referred to the House Committees on Education and Labor; Oversight and Government Reform; and Ways and Means. Rep. Stark introduced similar legislation in the 110th Congress, but that legislation failed to make it out of committee.


House Passes Amendment to FMLA for Airline Flight Crews

On February 9, 2009, the House passed the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (H.R. 912) by voice vote. The bill would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by expanding coverage for flight attendants and pilots.

Enacted in 1993, the FMLA provides that covered employers must grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for the birth and care of a newborn child, the adoption of a child, the care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition or medical leave when the employee himself or herself is unable to work due to a serious health condition. Employees are generally eligible to receive this leave if they have been employed (1) for at least 12 months by the employer, and (2) have worked at least 1,250 hours within the previous 12 months.

The bill would expand FMLA coverage for flight attendants and pilots by rendering them eligible to receive the FMLA leave so long as they had worked or been paid for 60 percent of the “applicable monthly guarantee,” or the equivalent annualized over the preceding 12-month period, and for a minimum of 504 hours during the same period. An “applicable monthly guarantee” is the time employers schedule flight crews, including time spent on the job between flights or on mandatory standby. 

The bill, which had 53 co-sponsors including members from both parties, was introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) on February 9, 2009. The House suspended the rules, debated the bill, and passed the bill later that day. A parallel provision is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.

The House had previously passed a similar bill during its last term (H.R. 2744, 110th Cong.), but the Senate failed to act on the bill before Congress adjourned.