On Friday, Congress passed the first significant amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in over a decade.  Morguefile - militaryThe Bill still needs to be signed by President Bush in order for it to become effective. 

The new bill, which has yet to be signed by President Bush, creates an additional category for the traditional 12 week leave. Specifically, an employee may take 12 weeks leave, where the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the Armed Forces in support of a contingency operation and there is a "qualifying exigency" which is to be defined by the Secretary of Labor by regulation.

In addition, and in an unique approach to leave issues, Congress has also created a "Servicemember Family Leave" where an eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of an injured servicemember needs to take care of them. The employee in this situation is entitled to 26 weeks leave.  This appears to be a one-time only leave. 

For Connecticut employers, this new bill will only add to the confusion over which leave (state or federal) applies. For the time being (and when signed by President Bush), this new leave will only apply to those employers covered under the Federal FMLA laws, not the state. 

Note that this expanded leave section is part of an overall military spending package.  There remains the possibility of a veto on it so employers should keep checking back for final approval and an effective date.

The legislation had been introduced by Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and he expressed his pleasure with its passage in a statement on Friday. 

"By passing this important legislation we will protect family members’ rights to keep their jobs when they are providing important care and we will ensure that our injured troops receive the comfort and attention that they need," he said. 

According to the roll call, Dodd was absent from the final vote on the conference report on Friday. 

(Hat Tip: Jottings by an Employer’s Lawyer)