Earlier this year, the Department of Labor issued a final rule implementing recent amendments that expanded the FMLA to meet the unique challenges confronting military families and those who care for our wounded warriors. Serving your country is an honorable and rewarding career, but one that also calls upon the strengths of a servicemember’s entire family. For every soldier on the front lines, there is a support team at home steadfastly marching forward, filling voids left while a loved one serves. Here’s how the law can help:
—> The FMLA’s Military Caregiver Leave provides time away from work to assist a service member who has suffered a serious illness or injury in the line of duty. A family member who works for a covered employer and meets the eligibility requirements of the FMLA may be entitled to take up to 26 workweeks of unpaid leave, during a single 12-month period. This leave is available to family members of current service members and certain veterans of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard or Reserves.
—> The FMLA’s qualifying exigency leave provisions mean that a family member who works for a covered employer and meets eligibility requirements may be entitled to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave to take care of issues related to the foreign deployment of the military member. Examples of qualifying exigencies include time to make or update financial and legal arrangements, to attend military events and related activities, to attend non-medical counseling and for post-deployment activities.
–> Thanks to these expanded protections afforded under the FMLA, family members can take leave to attend a deployment ceremony, spend time with an active duty soldier on rest and recuperation leave, or care for a wounded active duty soldier or veteran while having the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their employer-provided benefits − such as health insurance − are still available, and that their jobs will be there when they return.
No one should have to choose between the job they need and caring for the family that needs them − particularly the families of our men and women in uniform. The FMLA’s protections only have meaning and provide real benefits when our military, their families and veterans are aware of them and use them. Check out the Employee’s Guide to Military Family Leave, the Department’s employee and military worker information cards (in both English and Spanish), and other FMLA materials here.