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Is FMLA Coverage Expanding?


It is true that there are a number of bills pending that, if passed, will have significant effects on the Family Medical Leave Act. One bill in particular, the Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2016 would amend the original statute so that it now covers employees at worksites that employ 15 or more employees. This is a significant modification from the current minimum of 50 employees.

The FMLA basics

A federal statute known as the FMLA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act, protects employees who need to take leave from work, either for their own medical condition or to care for others. The statute requires employers to keep the employee’s position (or a comparable one) available for them when they return. However, the FMLA does not protect every employee of every employer. It is crucial that employees understand the eligibility requirements.

Covered employers and employees

The FMLA provides protection only to “covered” employees, working for “covered” employers. What does that mean? First, the employer must have 50 or more employees, working within a 75-mile radius. Employers with less than 50 employees are not required to comply with the statute.

Proposed parental involvement leave provisions

The proposed bill would also amend the FMLA to allow employees to take time off from work to participate in school activities with their children or grandchildren, attend regular medical/dental appointments, or attend to the needs of elderly relatives, such as visiting them in a nursing home. More specifically, a covered employee could potentially take up to 4 hours of leave during any 30-day period, and up to 24 hours during any 12-month period, of parental involvement leave.

This leave can be for the purpose of participating in or attending activities that are sponsored by a school or community organization. The leave could also be used for attending activities that relate to a program of the school or organization that is attended by the employee’s child or grandchild.

Parental involvement leave could also be used to attend to routine family medical care needs, including the employee’s medical and dental appointments, or appointments for their spouse, child, or grandchild, as well as the health care needs of their related elderly individuals, including visits to nursing homes and group homes.

Will the proposed bill be passed into law?

A similar bill was introduced in 2014 that would have lowered the employee threshold from 50 to 25, but did not gain any traction. According to reports, this is the seventh time that a version of the Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act has been introduced. Experts do not anticipate the latest version will have any more success than the others.

If you have questions about FMLA leave or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced attorneys employment attorneys at Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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