Air Force Memorial in Arlington, VA
Air Force Memorial in Arlington, VA

UPDATED

Continuing to recap various employment law bills out of the Connecticut General Assembly, the legislature passed a measure Wednesday night that brings Connecticut’s FMLA law more in line with the federal counterpart.

The federal FMLA was amended back in 2008 (prior post on the subject here) to provide coverage for any “qualifying exigency” arising out of the fact that the spouse, son or daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to order in the armed forces.  Regulations were put in place as well.

The new Connecticut rule — which will go into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature — covers that same type of qualifying exigency. Indeed, it defines such an exigency by reference to the U.S. Department of Labor’s regulations on that very subject.

What this means is that employees in Connecticut will now have 16 weeks over a 24 month period for such a leave.  You can review Senate Bill 262 here.

The new rule, however, is not a mirror image of the federal counterpart but brings its nearly up to date with it. And as readers will recall, there is a 26 week period for caregiver leave also in place in Connecticut as a result of P.A. 09-70 back in 2009.

Ultimately, employers in Connecticut will have to update their FMLA policies and procedures to account for this leave, if you haven’t been allowing military leaves under CTFMLA.

And while it’s obviously important to support the military and those that serve — the confusing and overlapping laws on the subject don’t make it easy for employers who want to do right by their employees.

Late last week, the Connecticut House approved Senate Bill 710 (S.B. 710) which makes some important changes to the state FMLA law to bring it more in line with the federal family and medical leave act rules as they relate to military caregiver leaves of absences.  

I’ve covered the bill in a post earlier this month and nothing has changed since the Senate passed it.  The bill now moves on to Governor Rell for her approval. 

Importantly, the provisions of this bill will be effective immediately upon the governor’s signature.  

The core provision of the bill (you can download the text here) is the creation of a one-time leave related to injured armed forces members.

Employees who are immediate family members of those servicemembers or next of kin will be entitled to this leave. If there are any nuances between federal and state law, the more generous of the two benefits will apply. 

This measure will only apply to those employers who are already covered under state FMLA rules. (You can read my prior posts about state FMLA rules here.)

Employers should immediately start revising their FMLA policies to ensure compliance with this new state law.  This may require revising some forms as well to document the leave.  Note that this will not be that different from what has been implemented at the federal FMLA level, but because many employers in Connecticut are still unaware of those provisions, this new state law should serve as a wakeup call to get the policies updated now.

Late last week, the Connecticut Senate approved a measure that would permit an employee to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave from work to care for family members who may have been injured in the line of military duty.  The bill (Senate Bill 710) is now on the House’s calendar for a vote within the next few weeks; it is likely to be approved.

The bill mirrors many of the provisions that were implemented last year in revisions to the federal FMLA

The Office of Legislative Research has done a good job summarizing the measure’s main provisions here

Notably, the measure has different provisions for private sector workers and state employees, so as the bill progresses, this distinction ought to be reviewed. 

The core provision of the bill, however, is the same for each — a one-time leave for each armed forces member per serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty.  Employees who are immediate family members of those servicemembers or next of kin will be entitled to this leave.  If there are any nuances between federal and state law, the more generous of the two benefits will apply.

In the meantime, employers should make sure their FMLA policies reflect the current state of the law and, if they do have any requests for leaves to care for injured servicemembers, employers should check back on the status of this bill — if they are not already covered under federal law.

With the budget issues looming large over this session of the General Assembly, it’s tough to get a handle on what labor & employment law bills are still a possibility for this session. One way to do that is to check to see what bills have been reported out of the Labor & Public Employees committee because if the bill can’t make out of committee, it’s not likely to go anywhere.

So what’s still alive in this session?

There’s still a long way to go in the session, but the next few months promise to be busy with lots of employment law issues likely to be debated and pondered. For a full list of bills reported out of the Labor & Public Employees committee, you can click here.

UPDATED 1/16/09

We had a great turnout today for our breakfast roundtable on the new FMLA regulations. I want to particularly thank several blog readers for coming. 

But in case you missed it, you’re not out of luck.  Here’s some of Copyright 2009, Daniel A. Schwartz - All Rights Reservedwhat we discussed and what you need to know for Friday – the date the new FMLA regulations become effective. 

  • Start using the new forms, certifications and postings on Friday – To simplify (and perhaps oversimplify so look at the new regulations for more details), there are new rules on when notices should be given and what they should contain. Here are some highlights:
    • Form WH-381 must be given to employees within 5 business days of the leave request.
    • If the employer will require the employee to certify the leave, the appropriate certification form (either WH-380-E, 380-F, 384, 385), should be given to the employee (along with the notice form) also within 5 business days of the leave request.
    • Once a designation has been made, there is a new designation notice (WH-382) that also must be provided; this must be done within 5 days of the designation determination. A new form should be provided if the designation changes over time. 
    • Lastly, to the extent that you are not providing each employee with a copy of their rights individually, the employer should also use the new FMLA poster available here. 
  • Update your FMLA policies – To the extent that you have a policy on FMLA, the policy should be revised to at least include the information in the notice above. 
     
  • Don’t overlook the new military leave regulations – Although the statute regarding new military leave has been in place for a while, the regulations implementing and interpreting the statute are new.  If you have employees who have family members who are injured servicemembers, or if you have employees who have been called to active duty, you need to familiarize yourself with these rules.  The rules allow for broader leave that employers may be accustomed to.

Finally, if you need more information about the FMLA, you can check out my previous posts on the subject here.

Since I’m only by a computer for a few minutes this morning — still vacationing — I wanted to just highlight a few points from my brief post yesterday afternoon on the expected veto of the bill that contained the expanded leave for military families. 

US Botantical Gardens natural duplicate of Congress First, if you haven’t done so, you should check out two blogs that commented on this blog and my post:  Michael Fox’s Jottings by an Employer’s Lawyer (long my go-to-resource before I got into blogging myself) and Workplace Horizons (which is a critical resource on all the legislative bills addressing labor & employment laws).  I’m grateful for their kind words this morning.   Both have had detailed summaries of the Military Leave FMLA provisions and other significant bills and I urge you to check them out.

Second, in my haste, I failed to highlight that, with Congress out of session, President Bush is exercising his pocket veto — meaning Congress will have to take this issue up anew when they restart in January.

As the Washington Post reports:

Because Congress is not in session, Bush is barred by the Constitution from issuing a traditional veto and returning it to lawmakers, according to White House officials. Instead, according to a senior official, Bush plans to execute a "pocket veto," meaning he will not sign the measure — requiring lawmakers to write and pass an entirely new version of the bill when they return.

To block efforts by Congress to challenge the pocket veto, however, Bush is also going the traditional route, sending over to Congress his veto message and the unsigned bill.

Third, the White House’s statements and reasoning for the pocket veto — which has nothing to do with the FMLA provision itself — can be found at the website here.  The veto took place this morning

(And for those who are interested, the photo is of a replica of Congress made out of natural materials now on display at the U.S. Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC where I’ve been visiting on vacation.)