Labor Department Reacts to Concerns About Leave Abuse
Department of Labor officials on Thursday said that they have proposed regulations to address concerns raised by some employers that employees have abused the Family and Medical Leave Act, the New York Times reports.
FMLA, enacted in 1993, requires employers with at least 50 employees to offer 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave to workers who develop serious illnesses and to those who seek to care for newborns or family members with serious health conditions. DOL estimates that seven million U.S. residents take FMLA leave annually.
The proposed regulations would require employees to request FMLA leave in advance. Currently, employees in most cases can miss work for two days before they must request FMLA leave.
Victoria Lipnic, assistant labor secretary for employment standards at DOL, said the proposed regulations would not limit the definition of serious health conditions under FMLA, as some employers have proposed. She said that DOL lacks the authority to limit the definition. Lipnic said, "We did not think that we should be rendering ineligible people who have health conditions and are currently eligible under the law."
Marc Freedman, director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, "There's a problem with how the department has defined serious health conditions because that has opened things up to virtually any conditions now being eligible. We would have liked to see changes there."
DOL also has begun to draft regulations to implement changes to FMLA included in the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill (HR 4986) that Congress has approved and President Bush plans to sign.
The legislation would revise FMLA to allow family members of veterans to take as much as six months of unpaid leave to care for wounded veterans. In addition, the bill also would allow employees to take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave for "any qualifying exigency" related to the call to active duty or deployment of family members (Greenhouse, New York Times, 1/25).