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FMLA Amended (Again) to Expand Military Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act was recently amended (for the second time in under two years) to expand the leave benefits available to families of military members.

As a result of the earlier amendments, eligible employees were granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period for qualifying exigencies arising from the fact that their spouse, child, or parent is a member of the National Guard or Reserves and was called to active duty “in support of a contingency operation.”  Also, eligible employees could take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period to care for a servicemember injured in the line of duty if the employee is the servicemember’s spouse, child, parent, or next-of-kin.

Under the new amendments, qualifying exigency leave has been expanded to include members of all branches of the military. Also, the service member’s active duty service no longer needs to be “in support of a contingency operation;” rather, leave is now available if the qualifying exigency arises while the service member is on active duty in a foreign country.  As for leave to care for an injured servicemember, this leave is now available for qualifying care needed up to five years after the servicemember leaves the armed forces. 

These amendments were part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, signed by President Obama on October 28, 2009.  Since the amendments have no stated effective date, we assume they went into effect immediately.  We expect the U.S. Department of Labor to pass new regulations and amend the required poster sometime in the future; however employers are required to begin complying with these new amendments immediately.