FMLA Amendment: National Defense Authorization Act

On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 (NDAA). One section of the NDAA is an amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). The NDAA became effective immediately following the President’s signature. The Department of Labor (DOL) has not issued regulations, though. Until they do, the DOL announced that it will not look to enforce the Act so long as employers are complying “in good faith.”

And what exactly is “good faith” mean in this context? A likely starting point are the FMLA regulations. The two Acts are similar in purpose–both dealing with protected leave. By using the FMLA standards for notice and certification requirements, employers have a solid starting point for applying the NDAA.

And just what does the NDAA provide? There are similarities and differences between the two:

1. Like the FMLA, the NDAA provides for protected leave.

2. But the FMLA’s provisions are expanded to include a “spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin” of a “member of the Armed Forces.”

3. Instead of the 12 weeks’ leave provided by the FMLA, the NDAA guarantees employees can take up to 26 workweeks of leave.

4. And, though not a tremendously signficant expansion, the NDAA does not borrow the FMLA’s “serious-medical-condition” language. Instead, the NDAA can be employed to care for a military family member, “who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness.”

As complicated as the FMLA has been in application, there is now another element with similar-but-different requirements. HR Professionals should be sure to keep up with these changes as the new law continues to develop.